COVID-19 Update for Patients

A new coronavirus is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory infection, now known as COVID-19. The number of cases worldwide is changing quickly. B.C. has confirmed cases of coronavirus. Find information about the virus, how to protect yourself, your family, and your community.

What you need to know:

Mandatory mask use to begin in all health care facilities, including family doctor and community specialist offices

BC’s Ministry of Health has announced a new Mask Use Policy that applies to all health care facilities for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The policy mandates that all patients, visitors, health care providers, and non-clinical staff must wear medical masks in all settings where health care is provided. This includes community doctors’ offices, long term care, and assisted living facilities. The policy states that mask wearing is one element in the hierarchy of infection prevention along with physical distancing, quarantine/isolation, staying home when ill, and hand hygiene. The full policy is available here: Mask Use in Health Care Facilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic


COVID-19 vaccine update

Vaccinations are now underway in BC, and currently ahead of schedule. The general public will receive their vaccines in stages, starting in April. Please be patient and watch for updated information on timing for your age group.

  • Over the next two weeks, the BC government will be sending letters to people aged 16-74 who are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ with information on how they can register for their vaccine.
  • This means that ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ patients will be able to get their vaccinations earlier than their age group, ensuring that those most at risk are protected sooner.
  • It is expected that everyone will receive their letter by April 15.
  • Please note that the criteria for the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ is very specific and cannot be changed.
  • Most people with common conditions such as diabetes (unless on insulin) and asthma are *not* considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and will be vaccinated shortly as part of their age group.
  • Please visit www.gov.bc.ca/cevCOVID if you are unsure if you meet the criteria.
  • If you have not received your letter by April 15, your first step will be to call the vaccine booking system to see if you are on the list.
  • If you are not on the list, please call this office after April 15 so we can confirm your eligibility with the provincial government.
  • We respectfully ask that you do not contact this office before April 15 as it is important our phone lines are free for those needing immediate medical care.
  • For more information on this process, or If you are unsure whether you meet the criteria for a ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ person, please visit:
    Vaccines for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)
  • Our vaccine program is ahead of schedule and all British Columbians are now expected to receive the first dose of their vaccine by the end of June.Seniors aged 80 and older, and Indigenous seniors aged 65 and older have now almost all been vaccinated. If you are in this age group, and you need to book your appointment, visit the BC Government website here.
  • The general public will start receiving vaccines in April. Vaccines will be delivered by age group, starting with those aged 75 and older.
  • Currently the Immunization Plan is ahead of schedule and everyone should have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of June.
  • Health authorities will shortly be reaching out to all British Columbians with information on how to register to get the vaccine.
  • For information on the four phases of the immunization campaign, and to understand when you will be eligible, please go to the BC Centre for Disease Control website here.
  • If you want to know whether you are on the list of clinically extremely vulnerable patients, who are being fast-tracked to receive the vaccine earlier than their age group, check this link: Vaccines for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca). It also provides you with direction regarding next steps.
  • Please do not contact this office until after April 15; then contact us only after calling the booking system to see if you are eligible for the vaccine. Again, please look to see if you are on the list first to see if you are eligible for fast-tracking.
  • Thank you for your patience, and please continue to do all you can to prevent spread of the virus, and to keep you and your loved ones safe.
  • This means wearing a mask when you’re out, staying six feet from others, and washing your hands frequently. People who are aged 16-74 ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ will be able to get vaccinated sooner than their age group. This will ensure that those most at risk are protected sooner.
  • If you are in this group you will receive a letter with information on how to register for the vaccine. It is expected that everyone will receive their letter by April 15.
  • If you have not received your letter by April 15, your first step will be to call the vaccine booking system to see if you are on the list.
  • If you are not on the list, please let us know so we can check your eligibility with the provincial government.
  • The criteria for the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ is very specific and cannot be changed. Please visit www.gov.bc.ca/cevCOVID if you are unsure if you meet the criteria.
  • Currently the Immunization Plan is ahead of schedule and everyone should have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of June.
  • If you have not received your letter by April 15, your first step will be to call the vaccine booking system to see if you are on the list.
  • If you are not on the list, please let us know so we can check your eligibility with the provincial government.
  • We respectfully ask that you do not contact this office before April 15 as it is important our phone lines are free for those needing immediate medical care. The general public will start receiving their vaccines in April, starting with those 75 or older.
  • Currently the Immunization Plan is ahead of schedule and everyone should have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of June.
  • Watch for information on how to register coming to you soon from the health authority.
  • Seniors aged 80 and older, and Indigenous seniors aged 65 and older have now almost all been vaccinated. If you are in this age group, and need to book your appointment, visit the BC Government’s ‘Vaccine Appointments for Seniors’ web page for details.
  • Visit bccdc.ca for more information and for your eligibility to get the vaccine.
  • Remember to continue to wear your mask and to physically distance.

Your questions answered about the COVID-19 vaccine in BC

What is the schedule for the general public to get vaccinated in the next few months?

Phases 3 and 4 will take place from April until June. The first dose of the vaccines will be administered by age in five-year increments. Dates are subject to change depending on supply.

Phase 3 | April – May

  • People aged 79 to 60
  • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) peoples aged 64 to 18
  • People aged 74 to 16 who are clinically extremely vulnerable(link is external) (March/April)
  • Front-line workers (identified and contacted by their employers)

Phase 4 | May – June

  • People aged 59 to 18
  • Indigenous peoples age 44 to 18

Further information and updates are available on the BCCDC website(link is external).

Who can get the AstraZeneca vaccine in BC and where can I get it?
  • Currently, people between the ages of 40 – 65 can make an appointment at their local pharmacy(link is external) for the Astrazeneca vaccine.
  • The province has set up AstraZeneca vaccine clinics in 13 high-risk communities that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 transmission over the past 14 days. You can check if you live in a high-risk community and are eligible to get your vaccine in one of the clinics here(link is external).
What will be the process for the general public to register to get vaccinated?

There are three ways you can register to get the vaccine.

Register online (Personal Health Number required)

Register by phone (Personal Health Number not required)

  • Call: 1-833-838-2323 | Translators are available
  • Seven days a week, 7 am to 7 pm (PDT)
  • Please only call when you are also eligible to book an appointment.

Register at a Service BC office (Personal Health Number not required)

What happens after I register? What is the process to get my vaccine?

Step 1: You’ve registered (online, by phone or in person), and specified how you would like to be contacted to book your vaccine appointment.

Step 2: You will be contacted to book your appointment.

  • When you are contacted to book a vaccine appointment, you will be asked to:
    • Complete a pre-screening
    • Select a location, date and time
    • You will be able to make your appointment online or by phone, using the Get Vaccinated(link is external) system.

Step 3: Appointment day

  • At the immunization clinic you will:
    • Complete a check-in process
    • Get your vaccine dose
    • Wait in an observation area for about 15 minutes

Getting the second dose

  • People who get their first vaccine dose will be notified by email, text or phone call when they are eligible to book an appointment for their second dose.
How will I be notified it’s time for me to register?

Watch media reports and your health authorities’ web sites for updates on which week your age group is directed to book.

What if I missed the date I’m supposed to call to book my appointment?
What is the process to get vaccinated if I am ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to COVID-19?
  • People aged 16 to 74 who are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV)’ will be able to get their vaccinations earlier than their age group. This ensures that those most at risk from COVID-19 are protected sooner.
  • All eligible patients will be sent a ‘Patient Invitation Letter’ by April 15.
  • Once you have received your letter you can book a vaccine appointment for yourself, or have a family member or friend call for you (details of how to register online or by phone will be available shortly).
  • If you are unsure whether you meet the CEV criteria, please visit www.gov.bc.ca/cevCOVID(link is external).
  • Please note that the criteria for the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ is very specific and cannot be changed.
  • Most people with common conditions such as diabetes (unless on insulin) and asthma are *not* considered CEV and will be vaccinated shortly as part of their age group.
  • Our vaccine program is ahead of schedule and all British Columbians are now expected to receive the first dose of their vaccine by the end of June.
  • If you meet the criteria, but have not received your letter by April 15, your first step is to call the vaccine booking system to see if you’re on the list.
  • Please do not contact your doctor before April 15. It is important that phone lines remain open for those requiring immediate medical care.
I have checked my eligibility and I am ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ but have not received a letter. What should I do?
  • Your first step If you have not received a letter by April 15, is to call the vaccine booking system to see if you’re on the list.
  • If you are not on the list, please call your doctor or specialist’s office and they can to confirm your eligibility with the provincial government.
  • Please do not contact your doctor before April 15. It is important that phone lines remain open for those requiring immediate medical care.
  • For more information on this process, or If you are unsure whether you meet the criteria for a ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ person, please visit: Vaccines for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable – Province of British Columbia (link is external)
Why is the delivery of vaccines based on age?
  • The data referenced by the Provincial Health Officer indicates that the older the person, the greater the risk for severe illness, hospitalization, or death due to COVID-19.
  • Older people are also more likely to have chronic health conditions, which increases their risk even further
Why will it take so long for everyone to get vaccinated?
  • Vaccination delivery is a complex undertaking.
  • Limited supplies, vaccine storage (sub-zero temperatures), and the two-dose regimen, all need to be considered when planning the roll-out of the vaccine across the province.
  • In the meantime, we ask that British Columbians remain patient, and continue to take measures to reduce the spread of the virus as they wait their turn for the vaccine.
Who should seek further advice before getting the vaccine?
  • It is recommended that the following people consult with their health care provider to discuss if the benefits are greater than the possible risks from the COVID-19 vaccine. People who:

    Recommendations may change as more evidence on safety and/or effectiveness in these populations becomes available.

Are the vaccines safe?
  • COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada have followed the same extensive testing as every other vaccine. No steps were skipped.
  • Faster funding and worldwide collaboration have meant the vaccines were able to be developed much more quickly.
  • The clinical trials and safety reviews actually took about the same amount of time as other vaccines.
  • It should be recognized that risks of the virus are significant, and far outweigh the possibility of serious side effects from the vaccination.
  • For more information, check out our article COVID-19 vaccines:are they safe?
Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe? Why are there restrictions on who can get it?
  • All vaccines approved in Canada are safe and highly effective.
  • Use of the Astrazeneca vaccine has recently been limited as reports of blood clots – an extremely rare side effect – are examined.
  • However, we know that the risk of having a severe reaction such as a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine is very rare (one out of 100,000 – 250,000), and that risks from the virus – short and long term – far outweigh those from the vaccine.
  • It is strongly recommended that all British Columbians take the first vaccine they are eligible for, especially with current rates of infection being so high.
How successful are the vaccines in protecting people from the virus?

The COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada, requiring either one or two doses, provide excellent protection against the COVID-19 virus, preventing up to 95% of infections and serious illness.

What is the timing for the two doses of the vaccine?
  • The Provincial Health Officer has announced that BC is extending the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to four months.
  • This is in light of good news from local and international data showing up to 90% protection three weeks after receiving the first dose of the two-dose vaccines, lasting for many months.
  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)’s recommendation aligns with B.C.’s decision, which frees up 70,000 doses for younger age groups.
  • This means everyone can move up the list, with all British Columbian’s expected to receive their first dose of the two-dose vaccines by the end of June.
Do I need to connect with someone to arrange for my second dose?

No. Your health authority has a record of your immunization date, and will be in touch with you to advise you of time, date, and location for your second dose. At this time, you can expect to receive your second dose about four months from your initial vaccination.

What side-effects can I expect after the vaccine?
  • Common reactions to the vaccine may include soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Other reactions include tiredness, headache, fever, chills, muscle or joint soreness, and nausea. These reactions are mild and generally last one to two days.
  • These common reactions are not an allergic reaction, but signs that your body’s immune system is responding – in a good way – to the vaccine.
  • If you have concerns about any symptoms you develop after receiving the vaccine speak with your health care provider or call 8-1-1 for advice.
Should women who are pregnant and breastfeeding get the vaccine?

The response to this question can be found here

Supporting documents to print

What you need to know about safety and efficacy

Common questions about the vaccine, who gets it and when

8 myths and facts about the vaccine

Five questions about the COVID-19 vaccine

#KeepGoingBC – There’s light at the end of the tunnel


Below you can find more information about COVID-19, including symptoms, health precautions, travel precautions, and regular updates on the situation in Canada.

Visit the Vancouver Coastal health: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/vancouver-coastal-health-statement-on-coronavirus

BC COVID-19 Support App
The BC Government has launched a COVID-19 support App to help provide residents with the latest information on the ongoing pandemic. The app can be downloaded through the Apple Store or Google Play and is also available as a website online here.

Besides acting as a platform for posting information and alerts, the app also features the B.C. government’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool that can help residents decide if they need to seek coronavirus testing.

Government of Canada information:

  1. About Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/being-prepared.html#a2
  2. Travel advice: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html
  3. Community-based measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/public-health-measures-mitigate-covid-19.html
  4. New province-wide public directory that helps people connect to care shares COVID-19 Patient Resources: https://pathwaysmedicalcare.ca/covid-flu