Province called on to prioritize vaccination for Surrey to curb COVID-19 transmission

Ongoing high COVID-19 numbers in Surrey are leading to calls to prioritize vaccination for everyone living in the city who wants one. The idea is being put forward by the Surrey Board of Trade, which said the current vaccination rollout just isn’t working.

Board CEO Anita Huberman said she sent a letter to the provincial health officer and health minister asking them to prioritize vaccination for all Surrey residents aged 18 and up.

“Surrey has been a hotspot through this pandemic, and we need creative solutions,” she said. “The whole age-based approach in Surrey is not working. The hotspot targeted vaccination approach is not working. We need a city-wide approach, given the diversity of our community, given the high level of COVID-19 transmissions.”

While 41.7 per cent of the population in Fraser Health has received at least one vaccine since May 2, and 2.3 per cent have recieved a second dose, it’s unclear what the coverage is like in Surrey specifically, where case numbers have been higher than in other parts of Metro Vancouver.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showed 1,760 cases in Surrey from April 18 to 24, hundreds of cases higher than surrounding communities. There have been more than 26,000 cases in Surrey in total from January of last year to this March.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said he agreed with the board of trade, and added he raised the issue of speeding up the process during a discussion with Premier John Horgan and Fraser Health on Monday.

“Surrey is a hotspot, as far as COVID-19 is concerned,” he said. “We’ve been working with Fraser Health and the government to try and prioritize.”

The approach has been rolled out in smaller communities, such as Whistler and Prince Rupert. Huberman thinks the time is right to do the same in Surrey.

“At this stage, because our vaccine supply is steadily increasing, it is absolutely possible to vaccinate a population of close to 600,000,” she said.

Huberman added more vaccination centres would also need to open in the city.

The Ministry of Health said the vaccine is being deployed strategically, including to higher transmission communities, and the plan will continue to evolve depending on supply.

“B.C.’s immunization rollout is guided by public health data, and public health continues to use vaccine strategically to protect those most at risk,” the ministry said, and added 10 of the higher-transmission “hotspot” communities are in the Fraser Health region.

In the meantime, childcare workers, school staff, and emergency responders in Fraser Health who haven’t yet received their shots can book appointments starting Wednesday.