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Vaccine registration opens, more pharmacies added on North Shore as COVID cases rise

Phase 3 of vaccine rollout comes amid concerns about Brazilian variant, younger patients being hospitalized
Vaccination Clinic 03 MW web
Covid vaccination being administered at the North Vancouver Lloyd Avenue clinic location March 22.

B.C. launched a provincewide online COVID-19 vaccine booking system Tuesday amid rising counts of new cases – including record numbers on the North Shore - and variants of concern.

The new system, launched Tuesday morning, kicked off the next phase of the largest vaccination program in B.C. history. In the Get Vaccinated system, residents first register with the system, then are contacted when they are eligible to make an appointment.

People who tried registering with the system Tuesday morning reported it was working well.

"Online was a breeze. Less than five minutes of my time," wrote Rose Hillier on Twitter.

A parallel program is also open providing AstraZeneca vaccines through pharmacies to people aged 55-65 only.

That program got off to a rocky start last week, as far more people in that age group attempted to book vaccine appointments than vaccines were available for.

AstraZeneca vaccine parallel program also booking appointments

Since more vaccine supplies arrived in B.C. late last week, however, those who tried booking appointments through that program were reporting more success, with most people saying they were able to book an appointment or get on a waiting list.

Barry Rueger, 65, and Grant Bowen, 62, both said they’d been put on waiting lists for the AstraZeneca vaccine this week after not being able to get through to pharmacies last week. Robyn Brown was also successful in booking a vaccination for her cousin.

George Pajari wrote that he registered with three pharmacies and got a same-day appointment with one of them for Tuesday evening.

A number of pharmacies have been added to the list where that vaccine is available on the North Shore this week.

There are now 16 pharmacies in North Vancouver and three pharmacies in West Vancouver offering the vaccine.

The third phase of the vaccine rollout is happening as B.C. recently recorded its highest numbers of daily COVID-19 cases, reporting over 1,000 cases on several days in the past week.

The North Shore also reported its highest ever number of COVID cases last week, with 272 new cases of COVID reported in the week ending March 27, according to information released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. That’s dramatically higher than the 162 cases recorded the week before.

The spike in local COVID cases has put West Vancouver among the hot spots in the Lower Mainland, with an average daily infection rate of over 20 per 100,000.

There were 98 cases of COVID reported in the past week in West Vancouver – up from 38 the week before.

In North Vancouver there were 174 new cases – up from 124 the previous week. North Vancouver’s average daily infection rate now stands at between 15 and 20 per 100,000.

COVID infections in the Whistler area – which have included cases of the Brazilian variant - have also spiked, with 247 new cases, prompting Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, to close the ski resort for three weeks.

Health authorities have not so far said what has been driving cases in West Vancouver or whether any “variants of concern” have been recorded among those.

Brazilian variant a concern

But Health Minister Adrian Dix said the Brazilian variant has been reported in clusters within the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

The Brazilian variant is particularly concerning to health officials because it has shown signs of being more resistant to vaccines, as well as more transmissible. The median age for those with the Brazilian variant form of COVID is 28, said Dix.

Younger people have also been coming into hospital much sicker with COVID-19 in the past week, according to Dr. Kevin McLeod, who works in the COVID-19 ward at North Vancouver’s Lions Gate Hospital.

Many patients in the 20 to 50 year-old age group have recently been admitted to hospital, McLeod wrote in post on Twitter.

“Younger people think they are invincible,” he wrote. “That feeling quickly fades when we are blasting you with 100 per cent oxygen and your saturations are sitting high 80’s and all you really hear is a team debating pros and cons of intubating you and hooking you up to a ventilator.”