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Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium following a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Oct. 22, 2020. Dr. Henry says Dr. Ross Brown, from Vancouver Coastal Health, will join the group working to organize the logistics around the handling and distribution of vaccines.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

Provincial health officials say they are working on British Columbia’s plan to handle COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics around the distribution of vaccines.

B.C. recorded another 13 deaths and 738 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 29,086.

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The province also issued a correction for nine days of case totals in the Fraser Health region, revising Tuesday’s COVID-19 case count to 695 instead of 941.

Henry says front-line workers as well as those in long-term care homes will likely have priority for vaccinations.

She cautioned that while the province has contracts with vaccine makers, there can be challenges with offshore manufacturing.

“It’s very much focused on who is most at risk and how do we protect them best,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen.”

Henry said they hope to have vaccines by January 2021.

She said she was surprised at how quickly the virus has spread during the fall, and health restrictions imposed across the province last week are an attempt to deal with the sudden surge in cases.

Henry urged people to think of the impact COVID-19 is having on health-care workers, particularly those at Burnaby General Hospital, where an outbreak has led to 55 patients and 40 hospital staff contracting the virus.

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She also pushed back against those who oppose B.C.’s mandatory mask requirements, over claims it impacts their personal freedoms.

“I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or is a lack of freedom. It’s a sign of respect,” she said.

Henry’s call for compassion came on the same day the BC Coroners Service reported 162 overdose deaths for October.

The number of overdose deaths has become “unacceptably high,” she said, while urging residents to show compassion to drug users, and drug users not to take drugs alone.

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