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Vaccine rollout abruptly halted in Lakes District

Northern Health cites Pfizer shipment delays for the vaccine distribution disruption
NH representative confirmed that people who received their first dose will be scheduled to receive their second dose within the recommended timeframe.(The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette photo)

The vaccine rollout that began last week in Burns Lake has been abruptly halted.

A Facebook post on Jan. 18 from the Lakes District Senior Citizen Housing Association said, “I was just informed by Northern Health that all Covid vaccination clinics scheduled for this week for Heritage Manor and seniors in the community have been postponed until further notice.”

When Northern Health (NH) was asked about the reason behind this, media representative Eryn Collins said, “The postponement of some immunizations in the Lakes District is the result of the delays in shipment of Pfizer vaccine, and our need to prioritize immunization of residents and staff in long-term care facilities across the entire NH region for the month of January.”

Almost 50 eligible Lakes District residents were booked for COVID-19 immunization clinics and will be affected by this delay.

Collins said that the health authority will contact those impacted, to have their immunization postponed. She added that despite the delay, the health authority will continue to remain committed to immunizing people in phase 1 by the end of March.

“Our focus with the vaccine supply on hand, is to ensure residents of long-term care facilities are immunized; this is a short-term, targeted focus as our vaccine supply remains constrained. We understand that at this time there is an eagerness to be immunized and we are reminding people that everyone’s first line of defense is continuing to follow public health advice and orders, closely self-monitor for symptoms, stay home/away from others if they feel unwell, and seek testing if symptoms develop,” said Collins.

The first dose of the vaccine has already been administered to The Pines long-term care facility and the immunizations for the vulnerable members of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Lake Babine Nation had begun last week as well.

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccination begins in Burns Lake

Wilf Adam, former chief of Lake Babine Nation, who is also on the Northern Health board, told Lakes District News that the vaccine rollout has been paused for everybody.

“Moderna is still coming in early March and hopefully earlier. As for Pfizer, because they are retooling their plant in Belgium, there is a world-wide shortage and we wouldn’t be getting as much of Pfizer now for the province, but we will still get it once it is back up and running again. Until then, it is all paused. Nobody is getting it until we get a clearer picture in the next couple of days,” he said.

He also confirmed that those who got the first dose, would be getting the second dose on a priority basis which is why the health authority had to pause the vaccine rollout.

“Those who got the vaccine are lucky because it [the second dose] has to happen within three weeks or so. We don’t want to give out more doses because if the supply chain doesn’t come back up again, it would be a problem,” he added.

Collins also confirmed that people who received their first dose will be scheduled to receive their second dose within the recommended timeframe.

“This is provincially, roughly 35 days, as per recent comments from the Provincial Health Officer. More information on second doses and rollout of vaccine to other priority populations will be available as we learn more about shipment volumes and types of vaccine being received,” she said.

On Friday, Pfizer announced that it would supply fewer doses in the coming week due to ongoing work to upgrade its factory in Puurs, Belgium that would help scale up the production from mid-February.

The Mayor of Burns Lake, Dolores Funk, expressed her disappointment over the pause on the vaccine rollout but encouraged the community to be patient.

“Of course I’m very disappointed that the vaccines’ initially allocated for Burns Lake have been redirected elsewhere and that vulnerable groups in our community will not be receiving it at this time. That said, I don’t even pretend to understand the full depth and breadth of the decisions that NH is having to make on a daily basis to ensure a successful mass vaccination program and am grateful for their efforts and am sure they are doing what is necessary,” she said.

Funk also said that she was aware that the redirection was a result of the 50 per cent reduction in Pfizer vaccines.

“I think this is just a reminder to stay flexible and above all, stay vigilant. We are not out of the woods, yet,” she said.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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Priyanka Ketkar

About the Author: Priyanka Ketkar

Priyanka Ketkar has been a journalist since 2011 with extensive experience in community-driven news writing, feature writing, and editing.
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