Further to the Notice to the Professions dated January 5, 2021, CSHBC has received additional information from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) regarding BC’s immunization strategy.
Phased COVID-19 Immunization Plan
On January 22, 2021, the BC government provided an update on the strategy for the province’s evidence-based COVID-19 Immunization Plan. The plan is focused on protecting those most at risk of severe disease and death, and eventually stopping the spread of COVID-19 in communities. This means that as long as there is limited supply of the vaccine, the PHO must prioritize protecting those most at risk of severe illness and death.
The evidence available to the PHO indicates that increasing age is by far the most significant factor impacting an individual’s risk of severe illness and death. BC’s phased approach to immunization is designed to reflect this. Elderly populations will have the highest priority for vaccination, and the age-based approach also increases protection for those with clinical risk factors for more severe COVID-19 illness, as the prevalence of these also increases with age.
The PHO’s immunization plan is based on scientific evidence, as well as expert advice and recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, BC’s Immunization Committee, and BC’s public health leadership committee.
The PHO is committed to ensuring the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed equitably and ethically to people in BC, following national ethical frameworks and BCCDC’s COVID-19 Ethical Decision-Making Framework.
It is important to note that details are subject to change based on vaccine supply and emerging public health situations.
Phases 1-2 (December 2020 to March 2021)
Phases 1 and 2, which are focused on first protecting those most at risk of severe disease and death, include vaccination for targeted groups of health professionals – details are in the BC COVID-19 Plan.
Phase 1 includes residents and staff of long-term care facilities and residents and staff of assisted living residences. There is provision for health professionals in private practice who are seeing residents in these settings to access vaccination through the relevant facility.
“Community and home support and nurses caring for seniors” are included in phase 1; however, the PHO has not yet confirmed if there will be opportunities for non-nursing staff offering home care services to receive their vaccines in this phase. Hospital health care workers providing care in settings like ICU, emergency, medical and surgical units are also included in phase 1, as are remote and isolated Indigenous communities.
Phase 2 includes hospital staff who were not in Phase 1, GPs and “medical specialists” who were not in phase 1. The PHO has clarified that this term relates to registrants of the College of Physician’s and Surgeons of BC (CPSBC) only. Indigenous seniors age 65+, elders, and Indigenous communities and seniors over 80 who were not immunized in phase 1 are also included in phase 2.
Phase 3 (April to June)
Phase 3 includes vaccination of the “extremely clinically vulnerable” as well as the start of age-prioritized immunization of the general population ranging from age 79 to 60 in decreasing 5-year increments.
BC’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan notes that once additional vaccines are approved and become available, people between the ages of 18 and 64 who are “front-line essential workers or work in specific workplaces or industries” may be included in the later part of Phase 3. At this point, the definition of “essential worker” has not been confirmed.
Phase 4 (July to September)
Phase 4 focuses on mass vaccination of the general adult population – recipients will be prioritized to receive their vaccinations in descending order from age 59 to 18.
Health professional roles in the COVID-19 Immunization Plan
The PHO has not yet confirmed its strategy, if any, for recruiting more health professionals to provide vaccines. If extra capacity is required, health professionals who already have the delivery of injections in their scope of practice will likely be called upon first. This does not include CSHBC registrants.
Providing information to patients and clients
As part of our mandate to protect the public, CSHBC reminds registrants of their duty to provide patients/clients with safe care, including protecting them from the risk of infection. The PHO advises that immunization is an effective way to reduce everyone’s risk of infection from COVID-19 and complements all the other measures/precautions that health professionals need to maintain at this time.
CSHBC’ s position on registrants speaking to patients about COVID-19 immunization
CSHBC supports the delivery of safe, evidence-based care. BC’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan is based on scientific evidence, as well as expert advice and recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, BC’s Immunization Committee, and BC’s public health leadership committee. Canada also has one of the most thorough and stringent systems to approve new vaccines for use in people.
When a patient/client asks for your advice or opinion on COVID-19 immunization, they see you as a trusted source because of your professional designation/relationship. As providing immunizations is not within the scope of any CSHBC registrants’ practice, registrants should direct their patients/clients to an alternate source for more information or an assessment of their personal situation. The recommended source of COVID-19 vaccine information for your patients/clients is the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website, as well as patient/client GPs and 8-1-1. The Immunize BC website also has FAQs for patients.
If more information is needed, or if the patient/client has medical questions or concerns about COVID-19 immunization in relation to their personal medical condition, these are best answered by their primary health care provider.
COVID-19 safety protocols
All COVID-19 safety protocols to protect CSHBC registrants and their clients/patients must remain in place during the rollout of BC’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan until the PHO officially communicates that it is safe to ease off or stop any of those measures.