Nearly half a million British Columbians have registered to get their COVID-19 vaccinations since the province expanded its booking system earlier this week.
Health Minister Adrian Dix revealed Thursday that of the 487,726 who have registered for their jabs, 81,047 people have been able to book their appointments.
In B.C., hopeful vaccine recipients must first register either online, in person or over the phone before booking an appointment.
Once someone registers, they receive a confirmation code and will need to await a prompt from health officials via email, text or phone informing them they can book the appointment itself.
Earlier in the day, registration opened to British Columbians born in 1956 or earlier, while Indigenous people 18 and older and those considered clinically extremely vulnerable have also been able to register for a vaccination online by visiting https://www2.gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated.html since Tuesday.
Eligible British Columbians can book in person at a Service BC location or else phone the new provincial call centre at 1-833-838-2323.
Prior to Tuesday, the Fraser Health authority was the only one offering an online platform for bookings.
The remaining four health authorities had been booking vaccinations via call centres maintained by Telus Corp.
Meanwhile, a record 48,905 vaccine doses were administered in B.C. over the last 24 hours for a total of 995,100 vaccine doses administered since December.
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is in the process of “ramping up” its essential worker vaccination program once again after it was suspended last week amid concerns the vaccine used for the program, manufactured by AstraZeneca plc, has been linked to a small number of blood clots worldwide.
Immunization on the West Coast relies on administering the Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. vaccines to the general population based on descending age brackets.
But with the recent arrival of AstraZeneca doses, the province last month unveiled plans to allow essential workers to get vaccinated outside their age group with AstraZeneca doses.
Those efforts are on hold for now, but Henry said on Tuesday that the expected arrival of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the end of the month may allow the program to resume in the coming weeks.
When asked about reports of British Columbians lining up outside of clinics in the hopes of scoring unused doses at the end of the day without an appointment, Henry urged people to avoid such practices.
“Don’t line up unless you have been asked to come because there is a plan with every clinic for every dose,” she said.
“Plans often involve things like taking any unused doses to the emergency department [at] the hospital.”
Henry also announced during Thursday’s briefing she was putting in place a new expedited workplace closure order effective Monday amid a record number of COVID-19 cases walloping the province.
If three or more workers have contracted COVID-19 within the workplace, WorkSafe BC inspectors will be permitted to serve closure notice and help the workplace enhance its safety plans as needed.
The workplace might be closed for 10 days or longer as one measure to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Henry pointed to construction sites as one example of where these new protocols might be enacted.
“It may just be one team in the construction site that may need to be off for a period of time,” she said.
Henry acknowledged some workplaces will not be able to close as they offer essential services, including police stations, fire halls, healthcare facilities and certain distribution hubs serving grocery stores and pharmacies.
Dix said officials will be meeting with business groups in the coming days to discuss the effect of the orders.