When will B.C. resume vaccinations for frontline workers? Update coming next week

B.C. health officials have promised to provide an updated next week on the province's vaccination program for frontline workers, which has been put on hold over concerns around the AstraZeneca vaccine.

That vaccine was intended to protect everyone from teachers to first responders before reports of very rare incidents of blood clotting in other parts of the world prompted B.C. to suspend its use in anyone under the age of 55.

"That is on pause now because most of the workers are younger than 55, so we're recalibrating," Henry said during her COVID-19 briefing Thursday.

"I am confident that we'll be able to get back to that program soon, but we need to make sure that we are all comfortable with the safety."

With some of the AstraZeneca doses expiring soon, health officials decided this week to offer them up to anyone between the ages of 55 and 64 at pharmacies across the Lower Mainland. Henry stressed that the vaccine is effective and still recommended for people in that age group.

Any known risks associated with taking the vaccine are far outweighed by those associated with catching COVID-19, the provincial health officer said.

For now, it's unclear when or how B.C. might resume immunizations for frontline workers. Supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are still going to the province's age-based cohort system, which is now open to everyone 72 and up, and Indigenous residents age 18 and up.

Henry suggested Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine, which is not expected to arrive in Canada until the end of April, could be the key to getting frontline workers back in the queue.

She also alluded to the Novavax vaccine, which has yet to be approved in Canada, as a possible candidate for those workers.

In the meantime, B.C. health officials are still waiting on updated recommendations from Health Canada regarding the use of AstraZeneca.

"We're going to need to regroup and we will come back early next week as soon as we have more information on how we're going to move forward with that program," Henry said.

As of Thursday, B.C. has administered 787,649 doses of the three available vaccines. That includes 700,255 first doses, which is enough to immunize almost 14 per cent of the province's population.