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Registered nurse Liana Perruzza attends to a patient in a COVID-19 positive room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul's hospital in downtown Vancouver, April 21, 2020.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

British Columbia nurses say COVID-19 vaccines are not being distributed quickly enough in the province and that they are not being informed of the number of nurses who are getting doses.

The BC Nurses’ Union raised their concerns despite this week’s release of a detailed plan, by Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry, on vaccinating British Columbians to deal with the pandemic.

Nurses union president Christine Sorensen said in an interview Tuesday that every dose that landed in B.C. in December should have been administered by now and added that new batches should be injected as they arrive.

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“It needs to be delivered as quickly as possible into the arms of the most vulnerable. We need to get ahead of this virus or we will always be playing catch-up,” said Ms. Sorensen, who has been a public-health nurse since 1989, and participated in many mass immunizations, including campaigns for the flu and H1N1.

Earlier this week, Dr. Henry released material at a briefing that indicated 24,139 people have been vaccinated to date. Most were staff and residents of long-term care operations, as well as health care workers providing treatment for COVID-19 patients in such settings as intensive-care units, emergency departments and medical surgical units.

Ms. Sorensen said she has not been privy to details on who has been administering the vaccine or even the number of her members who have been vaccinated.

Based on photos she has seen on social media, Ms. Sorensen said she assumes some nurses, among the 48,000 she represents across B.C., have been involved in administering the vaccine.

“As a union leader, I would appreciate knowing how many of my members are safe, working at point-of-care in this province,” she said.

Ms. Sorensen expects there are nurses among the vaccinated, but she said she has no specific information on how many.

Asked if it wouldn’t be possible for the union to poll members about how many have received the vaccine, Ms. Sorensen said, “My members are too busy. They don’t even have time to have a break or take a day off.”

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She said nurses are exhausted trying to keep up with the workload demands from COVID-19 and the government’s initiative to get surgeries back on track, among other things.

“It shouldn’t be up to them to have to report to me,” Ms. Sorensen said. “That should be the responsibility of the employer, the health authority, and I would hope the Provincial Health Officer and the B.C. Centre of Disease Control can report those numbers.”

As of Jan. 4, B.C. received 54,625 doses of vaccine, according to the most detailed presentation yet on the COVID-19 vaccination plan for British Columbia. This week, B.C. expects to receive an additional 16,575 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

She said there are about 150,000 priority recipients for vaccines between December and February, including residents and staff of long-term care and their counterparts in assisted living residences, as well as hospital health care workers, paramedic and public-health employees.

From February to March, about 400,000 people, including community-based seniors, homeless people and long-term support recipients and staff, will be the priorities.

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After the 80-plus population in B.C. has been vaccinated, Dr. Henry said the province will begin a mass vaccination strategy in descending five-year cohorts, with details to be provided in mid- to late-January.

Between December and March, Dr. Henry said she is expecting 792,000 doses in British Columbia, though the actual number won’t be confirmed until three to four weeks ahead of time.

Mike Old, spokesman for the Hospital Employees Union, said his members have been relieved to see the vaccine rollout begin, consider the planning “solid,” and want it to happen as quickly as possible.

“If we can put more resources into doing it quicker that would be better,” he said in an interview. “We’re in the early days of the vaccine rollout so we’ll see if the plan works.”

He estimated, based on overall provincial numbers on who has been vaccinated, that about 8,000 of 50,000 workers in the union have been vaccinated.

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