British Columbia’s unvaccinated health-care workers will be given the first opportunity to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 when it arrives in British Columbia next week, says the province’s top doctor.
The federal government will provide B.C. with a limited number of doses of the vaccine, which has been widely used in the United States, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.
She said the vaccine has not yet been available in the province.
“Our first priority will be offering it to B.C. workers who have been affected by the (public health officer) order and who want the vaccine as an option for them to continue to safely work in B.C.,” Henry said at a news conference.
More than 3,000 B.C. health-care workers have not been immunized against COVID-19 and are in violation of the government’s proof-of-vaccination policy, which took effect last month.
Under the order, unvaccinated health-care workers have been placed on three months unpaid leave and could face termination.
Henry said some unvaccinated health-care workers who were placed on leave have suggested they would take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
She said she also expects the vaccine to be made available to members of the public, depending on the amount of supply the province receives.
Henry described the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a viral-vector vaccine that offers protection against COVID-19 similar to that of two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the number of health-care workers placed on leave due to their unvaccinated status has been declining in recent days as more get the shots.
“On the health-care workers side, since we last reported … on Friday, we’ve added 1,548 health-care workers,” he said.
Dix said there are now 3,071 unvaccinated health-care workers across B.C., which amounts to two per cent of the total workforce, including nurses, doctors and paramedics.
“It is our, of course, hope that people will continue to get vaccinated to reduce the numbers of people who are on leave of absence without pay or have lost their positions,” he said.
Dix said some hospitals have had to postpone surgeries due to staffing shortages caused by unvaccinated staff being placed on leave.
B.C. reported 500 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday for a total of 4,301 active infections, including 426 people in hospital.
Another five people have died, pushing the province’s death toll to 2,223.
Due to updates to B.C.’s immunization registry, the latest data on how many people have received doses of COVID-19 vaccine was not available.
—The Canadian Press