COVID-19 vaccines: B.C. to reduce interval between doses to 7 weeks, shots being offered at walk-in clinics

Hoping to get as many British Columbians vaccinated as possible, health officials announced Tuesday that residents will be able to get shots at walk-in clinics and get their second dose a little sooner.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Penny Ballem spoke about the province's vaccine rollout during a morning news conference.

The trio said, according to data from July 23, 19.6 per cent of eligible British Columbians remain unvaccinated. Northern and Interior Health authorities have the highest rates of unvaccinated residents, with 32.5 and 26.2 per cent, respectively.

The health officials said the province will be launching a "Vax for BC" campaign, which will allow those who haven't been vaccinated or those who have waited at least 49 days – or seven weeks – since their first shot to visit a walk-in clinic.

Previously, the interval between shots was a minimum of eight weeks.

Henry explained officials are "functionally" decreasing the intervals between vaccines but said there can be "a bit of a trade off" for doing so even further.

"There's more and more evidence being published around the world that shows that having a longer interval, particularly longer than the minimum of four weeks, does give longer lasting and stronger protection so we want to have that balance," she explained.

For most people, about six to eight weeks between doses is best," Henry said.

"For some people, we may want to shorten that," Henry said, giving places in Interior Health where there are clusters of cases as an example.

While booking an appointment ahead of time is still encouraged, it won't be necessary at the walk-in clinics, health officials said.

The campaign will also include a "Walk-in Wednesday" on Aug. 4, when 20,000 shots will be available across the province.

"Over the next two weeks, B.C. will push hard to vaccinate as many eligible people as possible," health officials said in their presentation.