North Vancouver’s Kim Coleman opted for a special event to mark her 45th birthday on Friday: she booked an AstraZeneca vaccination at her local pharmacy.
“We’ve been watching and waiting for the age group to lower,” said Coleman. “Everyone I know is eager to get it.”
Coleman is among younger North Shore residents who enthusiastically signed up for shots when the B.C. government announced Monday afternoon that it was lowering the age of eligibility for the vaccine from 55 to 40.
Province lowers age of eligibility to 40
Previously, the vaccine, available directly through pharmacies, had been limited to those 55 to 65, following reports of very rare side effects including blood clots in younger people. This week, however, many provinces opted to lower the age for the vaccine after determining the risks of getting COVID far outweighed the extremely small risk of blood clotting.
Coleman said she wasn’t deterred by reports of the rare side effects. The rate of those – estimated at between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000 – is so tiny compared to the millions of AstraZeneca vaccines that have been given globally with no ill effects that Coleman said it didn’t bother her. “Your chance of getting a blood clot while having COVID is much higher,” she said.
A number of newly-eligible residents took to social media to announce their vaccine appointments or give tips on which pharmacies had doses.
West Vancouver resident Shannon Banal said after trying unsuccessfully to book an appointment online, she read a Facebook post about a Horseshoe Bay pharmacy offering walk-in only doses of the vaccine.
When she arrived just after the pharmacy opened, "People had started lining up," she said. "People had chairs and books." Banal said there were about 40 people ahead of her in the line-up so she braved the over-three-hour wait to get the shot.
"I just didn't know how long it was going to take otherwise," she said. "It was important to get it as soon as possible."
Banal said she felt achy the day after, but considered that a good trade-off for knowing she's received the jab. "It's been a very anxiety-ridden year."
West Vancouver councillor Craig Cameron was another North Shore Gen Xer who quickly signed on for the vaccine.
Cameron said he’d walked by a small local pharmacy at 16th and Bellevue that had a handwritten sign outside saying vaccines were available. By the time he arrived on Monday afternoon it was too late, he said, so he went back Tuesday morning. “There was literally one person ahead of me in line,” he said. Out of 40 doses available, “I had the 25th one,” he said.
“I called my wife and she came down and I grabbed the dog and she went in. And then we called some other friends and they came and got poked.
There’s this whole system set up but really it comes down to word of mouth.”
30 pharmacies on North Shore offering AZ vaccine
There are now about 30 pharmacies on the North Shore offering the AstraZeneca vaccine. Most have online booking systems but some also offer walk-ins. Availability of vaccine varies from day to day at most pharmacies.
Cameron said the very small risk of blood clotting issues wasn’t a concern for him. “I've done as much reading as I could on it, and all from credible sources. And ultimately, you're much more likely to die of a car accident on the way to get the vaccine than you are of a blood clot or the vaccine.”
Cameron said the risks of COVID have recently been brought home to him by the number of people he knows on the North Shore who have contracted the virus. They include a family in isolation because a child contracted COVID and two middle-aged adults, including one in hospital.
Cameron said after initially thinking it could be months before he’d get a vaccine, he felt “unexpectedly euphoric” after getting jabbed.
Most people he knows are keen to sign up, he said.
“Gen X is on board. We're not going to vaccine shop, we're going take what we can get, and we're going be thankful for it.”
“Remember when we lined up for concert tickets? Now we’re lining up for vaccines. This is what middle age looks like.”
“I just hope everybody around me gets it as soon as possible.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine program is in addition to the regular age-based program by public health that is using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at clinics in North and West Vancouver. To sign up for that program – which is currently vaccinating people in their 60s and older – residents must register online.
Additional access to vaccines is being provided for Indigenous people, medical staff, for teachers and emergency responders on the North Shore.
According to the Ministry of Health, there had been approximately 1.4 million doses of all vaccines administered in B.C. as of Tuesday.