VANCOUVER -- British Columbia has recorded another 640 cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths from the disease, health officials said Wednesday.

The province has recorded 44,103 coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, and 692 deaths. More than one third of those deaths – 251 – have been recorded since the start of December.

In a joint written statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered their "condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic."

B.C.'s active cases surged to 9,950, which includes 362 patients in hospital – an increase of one from Tuesday, when the province hit a new hospitalization record. Ninety-one of those patients are in intensive care or critical care.

Officials also announced yet another COVID-19 outbreak in the province's health-care system, this time at the Sunrise of Vancouver seniors' home.

Most of the people who have died from the disease in B.C. are seniors, who are among the groups most susceptible to the worst symptoms of COVID-19.

Three other outbreaks – at Sun Pointe Village, Gateway Lodge and the University Hospital of Northern B.C. – have been declared over.

There is some hope on the horizon now that the province has begun distributing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

Henry and Dix revealed that 409 doses were given out on Tuesday, all going to frontline health-care workers in the Lower Mainland.

The province has received about 4,000 doses of the vaccine so far, but is expected to receive tens of thousands more by the end of the month, and officials said they will be distributed to every regional health authority.

B.C. expects to be able to vaccinate nearly 400,000 people by the end of March, though officials have stressed that's far below the amount needed to achieve herd immunity. Henry and Dix urged people to continue doing their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 for the coming months, including holidays.

“Many people have already made the commitment to make their holiday celebrations safe celebrations – by staying small and connecting virtually instead," they said.

"There are countless creative ways for us to have those important connections and also protect our communities and the people we care for most. Let’s continue to do our part and break the chain of transmission in B.C.”

On top of B.C.'s active infections, there are 10,538 people across the province under active public health monitoring after being exposed to a known case of COVID-19.

Of all the people who have tested positive for the disease so far in B.C., almost three-quarters – 32,376 – have recovered.