VANCOUVER -- As B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, the province's top health officials and premier revealed who is next in line to receive a dose in the province including teachers, grocery store employees and child-care workers.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix was joined in a news conference Thursday by Premier John Horgan and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is the executive lead of B.C.'s immunization rollout team.

In the update, Henry explained the rollout plan for the AstraZeneca vaccine for the next few weeks. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer doses, the top doctor had previously said that specific industries would be targeted for AstraZeneca first, especially where there's a greater risk of outbreaks.

On Thursday, Henry said the following groups would start receiving their first dose of AstraZeneca starting in April:

  • First responders including police, firefighters and emergency transport
  • Educational staff for students in kindergarten to Grade 12
  • Child-care staff
  • Grocery store workers
  • Postal workers
  • Bylaw and quarantine officers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Wholesale and warehousing employees
  • Staff living in congregate housing, like at ski hills
  • Correctional facilities staff
  • Cross-border transport staff

"Our age-based rollout is ahead of schedule and with the AstraZeneca/SII supply arriving, we can protect people working in specific, front-line industries," Dix said in a news release.

"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."

Those groups are in addition to what was announced earlier this week by Henry. Those groups include employees at food processing plants, agricultural operations with congregate living arrangements and large industrial camps.

"The workplaces that we're talking about are ones where we have large numbers of people … where there's ongoing risk," Henry said. "They're not the workplaces that are small."

The health ministry says booking arrangements for front-line workers will be set up in the coming weeks and will be communicated to each sector. Workers identified as "front-line" and prioritized for an AstraZeneca dose should not call in to regional health authorities right now.

"We're looking at a bounty of vaccine, which is a remarkable opportunity," Ballem said, estimating that about a quarter of B.C.'s population will be vaccinated by the end of next month.

"We're working very hard to respond to that and move up our population and accelerate their protection." 

New age-based distribution timeline

Henry and Ballem also announced the age-based distribution of vaccines is also accelerating. The next groups eligible are:

  • age 79 and Indigenous peoples 55 and older - Saturday, March 20 at noon
  • age 78 - Monday, March 22 at noon
  • age 77 - Tuesday, March 23 at noon
  • age 76 - Thursday, March 25 at noon
  • age 75 - Saturday, March 27 at noon

All other ages have also been moved up in the schedule as well. 

Phase 3 includes people aged 79 to 60, in five-year increments:

  • 79 to 75 (April)
  • 74 to 70 (April)
  • 69 to 65 (April)
  • 64 to 60 (April/May)
  • People aged 69 to 16 who are clinically extremely vulnerable (March/April)

Then, Phase 4 will begin in May and includes people aged 59 to 18, in five-year increments:

People aged 59 to 18, in five-year increments:

  • 59 to 55 (May)
  • 54 to 50 (May)
  • 49 to 45 (May)
  • 44 to 40 (May/June)
  • 39 to 35 (May/June)
  • 34 to 30 (June)
  • 29 to 25 (June)
  • 24 to 18 (June)

Health officials said an online booking system for vaccine appointments will launch on April 6. Until then, call centres are still being used but Ballem said wait times on those phone lines have nearly disappeared.