VANCOUVER -- B.C. health officials are not altering their vaccine rollout plan despite new recommendations from the National Advisory Council on Immunizations that adults from racialized groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19 should move up in the queue.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that B.C. will continue to prioritize people based on their age, which she has called the single biggest factor contributing to COVID-19 deaths.

The province is still taking steps to ensure there's equal access to the vaccines, she added.

“I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive,” Henry said at a news conference. "What we're trying to do is ensure that with every priority population that receives immunization, that we're doing it in a way that increases equity.”

Henry said health officials would monitor the rollout of the vaccine to people 80 years old and older, and if there were gaps, the province would take action.

Dr. Zain Chagla, a professor at McMaster University and a physician specializing in infectious diseases, said the goal of the recommendations is to ensure people aren’t left behind. Concerns have been raised in the U.S. that people of colour have less access to vaccine, although more likely to be affected by the virus.

In an interview with CTV News, Chagla added it's important to get clinics or pop-up clinics into communities that have high ratios of racialized people. He said it’s not about giving one group more access than another, but ensuring equal access.

“It's not proactively declaring your race, but it can be proactively (deciding) where you're going to put vaccine and engage people.”

That’s especially important because communication or language barriers may exist, Chagla added.

The National Advisory Council on Immunizations said after long-term care residents, front-line health workers and those over the age of 70 beginning with anyone older than 80 then decreasing in age in five-year increments, Stage 2 should include:

  • Adults in or from Indigenous communities not offered vaccine in Stage 1
  • Residents and staff of other communal living settings such as shelters, jails and group homes
  • Adults 60-69 years of age
  • Adults in racialized and marginalized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19
  • First responders (e.g., police, firefighters)
  • Front-line essential workers who cannot work virtually
  • Those who are the primary caregiver for individuals at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to advanced age care