Weeks after long-term care staffers and health-care workers began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, B.C. doctors are raising concerns about a slowdown in the process, but Fraser Health isn’t addressing them.
Dr. Kathleen Ross, the former president of the Doctors of B.C., questioned the abrupt shutdown of a vaccination centre in New Westminster, revealing she didn’t know if it would resume.
“After rapidly vaccinating over 1,200 frontline health-care providers in just under three days at (Royal Columbian Hospital), the process was shut down by (Fraser Health Wednesday night). No word on when we will protect our frontliners despite rising cases,” she tweeted to nearly 1,700 followers while tagging Fraser Health officials.
“There is no logic in slowing the vaccine rollout to those stepping up and treating acute-care patients as the numbers rise. These same physicians are stepping up and traveling to the community to vaccinate our (long-term care) facilities.”
Dr. Birinder Narang, a family physician in Burnaby, echoed her concerns.
“What is going on here? Hopefully it is temporary and just that the supply has been used,” he tweeted in response. “We need to be increasing our vaccination rates significantly, not pulling back. Apparently 500 (Fraser Health) family docs are ready to serve!”
CTV News asked Fraser Health about the doctors’ concerns Thursday morning and at 10 a.m. health authority staff responded that they would respond shortly.
At 4:55 p.m., a communications staffer replied: “I have submitted your request, as I am sure you can appreciate we are very busy right now. I will be sure to update you when possible.”
The lack of communication has been a persistent issue in the province at various levels. Bowing to public pressure on the vacuum of information around care home deaths and infections – particularly the silence from Vancouver Coastal Health on the deadliest outbreak yet – on Thursday the province announced a new system to provide more information for long-term care and assisted living facilities.
It’s not just the public being kept in the dark on public health information during the pandemic. The president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union says she has no idea how many nurses have been vaccinated so far, and says there’s widespread confusion about where and how to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“I would encourage the Ministry of Health to be as transparent as possible, and it is helpful for me to know how many nurses are vaccinated in a particular area and if there’s any work we can do to help promote this vaccination and encourage our workers to get it, so if we see there’s significant hesitancy in a particular site perhaps we need to work together to encourage people to get the vaccine,” said BCNU president Christine Sorensen in a Zoom interview.
“We have been raising concerns with the Ministry of Health around communication, and that’s communication around where clinics are being held, who’s eligible, when appointments are and, of late, when second doses will be given.”
Earlier in the week, the provincial health officer revealed the priority groups for each wave of vaccinations, specifically making note of the goal to vaccinate 30,000 health-care workers by the end of February.
"So, it is important for us to make sure that we are protecting those who are on the front lines of the COVID response and keeping our health system available for everybody," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, noting that all projections are based on supplies. "We are constrained by logistics and also by how much vaccine we are receiving, but we're optimistic, and we are focused intensely on making sure we protect people in long-term care and assisted living as quickly as we possibly can – and of course, protecting those most at risk in our communities."