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More than 300,000 front-line workers in British Columbia will now be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in the coming weeks, the government announced Thursday.

Grocery workers, police, firefighters, teachers, postal employees, child care staff, bylaw and quarantine officers, warehousing employees and other front-line staff are considered priority groups and will be eligible to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Premier John Horgan said by immunizing these workers, they are making workplaces and communities throughout the province safer.

“We know this has been an extremely challenging time for front-line workers. But as many of us have been able to work remotely or from home, they have gone to work day after day, day after day, and that they are the true heroes that we want to immunize at this time.”

The government said it expects to receive about 340,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of May and it plans to use a combination of community pharmacists, existing clinics and mobile clinics at some work sites to administer the vaccine to front-line workers.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C.’s age-based rollout is ahead of schedule and with the AstraZeneca supply arriving, the province can protect those working in specific front-line industries.

Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson: Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get in Canada?

Canada pre-purchased millions of doses of seven different vaccine types, and Health Canada has approved four so far for the various provincial and territorial rollouts. All the drugs are fully effective in preventing serious illness and death, though some may do more than others to stop any symptomatic illness at all (which is where the efficacy rates cited below come in).

PFIZER-BIONTECH

  • Also known as: Comirnaty
  • Approved on: Dec. 9, 2020
  • Efficacy rate: 95 per cent with both doses in patients 16 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 15-year-olds
  • Traits: Must be stored at -70 C, requiring specialized ultracold freezers. It is a new type of mRNA-based vaccine that gives the body a sample of the virus’s DNA to teach immune systems how to fight it. Health Canada has authorized it for use in people as young as 12.

MODERNA

  • Also known as: SpikeVax
  • Approved on: Dec. 23, 2020
  • Efficacy rate: 94 per cent with both doses in patients 18 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 17-year-olds
  • Traits: Like Pfizer’s vaccine, this one is mRNA-based, but it can be stored at -20 C. It’s approved for use in Canada for ages 12 and up.

OXFORD-ASTRAZENECA

  • Also known as: Vaxzevria
  • Approved on: Feb. 26, 2021
  • Efficacy rate: 62 per cent two weeks after the second dose
  • Traits: This comes in two versions approved for Canadian use, the kind made in Europe and the same drug made by a different process in India (where it is called Covishield). The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s latest guidance is that its okay for people 30 and older to get it if they can’t or don’t want to wait for an mRNA vaccine, but to guard against the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder, all provinces have stopped giving first doses of AstraZeneca.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON

  • Also known as: Janssen
  • Approved on: March 5, 2021
  • Efficacy rate: 66 per cent two weeks after the single dose
  • Traits: Unlike the other vaccines, this one comes in a single injection. NACI says it should be offered to Canadians 30 and older, but Health Canada paused distribution of the drug for now as it investigates inspection concerns at a Maryland facility where the active ingredient was made.

How many vaccine doses do I get?

All vaccines except Johnson & Johnson’s require two doses, though even for double-dose drugs, research suggests the first shots may give fairly strong protection. This has led health agencies to focus on getting first shots to as many people as possible, then delaying boosters by up to four months. To see how many doses your province or territory has administered so far, check our vaccine tracker for the latest numbers.

“Following the latest science and data to identify high-risk industries or critical services will allow us to protect even more people from COVID-19, which in turn, gives our entire communities and our province greater protection from the virus,” Mr. Dix said in a news release.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced last week that workers in food-processing plants, agricultural operations and industrial camps would be eligible for early vaccination.

Teri Mooring of the BC Teachers’ Federation said teachers, support staff and other education workers have done everything they can to make sure schools are safe, but the virus has still found its way into classrooms.

“I join all of my teacher colleagues in expressing huge relief that educators across B.C. will be prioritized in April to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Ms. Mooring said in a statement.

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