A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov | AFP)

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov | AFP)

Kelowna, Kamloops only Interior B.C. cities with freezer space to store COVID-19 vaccine

‘As the other vaccines come, hopefully, it will be a little bit easier and logistically less complicated to get it out to the remote communities’

Only the two largest cities in the Interior Health region — Kelowna and Kamloops — currently have the freezer capacity to store the COVID-19 vaccine upon its arrival, according to Interior Health’s top doctor.

The Pfizer vaccine, which is set to arrive in B.C. soon, needs to be stored at -80 C, prompting storage and transportation concerns, Interior Health’s chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers told the health authority’s board of directors during a Dec. 9 meeting.

Due to that, de Villiers said the health authority will have to “bring the people to the vaccine” when it arrives, meaning recipients may have to travel from remote communities to Kelowna or Kamloops.

Canada has contracts with seven different vaccine providers, the most likely of which to be approved next is the Moderna vaccine which needs to be stored at a more manageable -20 C.

“As the other vaccines come, hopefully, it will be a little bit easier and logistically less complicated to get it out to the remote communities,” de Villiers said.

Interior Health is working with the BC Centre for Disease Control to secure additional freezers, as are all other regional health authorities.

De Villiers noted that the vaccine will likely be distributed to the harder-hit Fraser and Vancouver Health authorities first, before coming to the Interior. When it does arrive here, he said long-term care residents and staff will likely be the first to get the vaccine, although plans for the rollout are not yet fully set.

Interior Health will release more information on its vaccination plan as it is developed.

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Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


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