2021-02-23 BC

Press Briefing of 23 Feb 2021

From today’s press briefing: +559 cases, +1 death, +1,788 first doses, +3,839 second doses. Currently 238 in hospital / 69 in ICU, 4677 active cases, 7881 under monitoring, 71,753 recovered.

There were zero deaths of long-term care home residents today, and I think that’s the first time in a long time that has been the case.

I am used to Dr. Henry looking somber at these press briefings, but whenever she talks about the vaccines, she brightens up immediately. Today she talked about vaccines at length and she was positively glowing.

  • They will give more details about the vaccination plan on Monday. From her comments today, I don’t expect it to be significantly different from the plan they presented in January.
  • They are seeing about ten adverse effects per thousand doses. They expected adverse effects: they see adverse effects with all vaccines (though I don’t know how the Pfizer/Moderna rates compare to other vaccines), and their vaccine teams are prepared to deal with the adverse effects.
  • Mass vaccinations are going to be a big undertaking. She didn’t come out and say, “Look, this is what pub health does, it’s a big job with lots of moving parts, but it’s straightforward, not rocket science”, but that was the sense I got.
    • Dr. Henry announced a Provincial Health Order which allows a lot more professionals to administer vaccines: dentists, midwives, paramedics, pharmacy technicians, retired nurses, etc. She acknowledged that recruitment was going to be a significant task.
    • She also mentioned that there were going to be many other people besides vaccinators on the vaccination teams: people to help register, to greet, to escort people with mobility issues, to monitor people for adverse reactions, etc.
    • There will be 172 communities with sites, and they are currently working on identifying and making agreements to use sites.
    • She mentioned that they are working on “systems” — which I assume means “computer systems” to handle the administration of the doses. This will be complicated because of there are multiple vaccines and most (all right now) will have two doses.
  • They are still working through the Phase 1 group, and will start on the Phase 2 group in about two weeks.
  • She reassured the over-80 crowd that they will get notified starting in about two weeks. She said that public health well understands that not everybody is Internet-savvy, and also recognized that if they just published a phone number, it would get swamped immediately. She said they will use lots of different ways to find people: through MSP, through specialty clinics, home care services, and even postcards. She emphasized that nobody would get left behind.
  • Dr. Henry was challenged about occupation-based vaccination, that essential workers and those who could not work from home deserved to get moved up the list. Dr. Henry pointed out (again) that their goal is to minimize illness and death while minimizing disruption to society, and age-based priority for vaccinations was the best way to do that. She also reminded people that in the plan they put out in January, there was something which said that if they got more vaccines approved, that they might set up a parallel occupation-based vaccination stream.

She also talked a bit about the Variants of Concern.

  • Whole-genome sequencing is slow, but they are now doing a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP, pronounced “snip”) screening which only looks at one small piece of the genome — the 501st position — to look for the N501Y which is common to B.1.1.7 (UK), B.1.351 (South Africa), and P.1 (Brazil). (NB: the California variant B.1.429 does not share the N501Y mutation.) That screening is very fast, so they can do a lot of it. While they only were doing whole-genome of about 5% of the cases, with the SNP screening, they are now screening about 70% of the COVID-19 tests.
  • Once the screening suggests that a sample might be a VOC, then they do whole-genome sequencing to see what they have.
  • I believe she said that they had looked at 3000 samples which the snip screening flagged, and they found three VOCs.
  • All the VOC cases which have been found have been followed up.