Vancouver hospital and other frontline health workers lined up for hours the other day to get vaccinated against COVID-19. They were reportedly told to get inoculated on their days off but from what I saw and heard, many were turned away because there were just too many to accommodate.

Asking healthcare professionals to line up for hours on their days off seems unacceptable given all their sacrifices during this pandemic. Online bookings are now being offered as an alternative to walk-ins at clinics in Vancouver, Richmond and North Vancouver. Clearly, Vancouver Coastal Health needs to do a good job scheduling thousands of appointments, especially since the latest report by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows that the total number of COVID-19 cases among B.C. healthcare workers rose to 3,624 from 1,442 when I last reported the figure six weeks ago.

That’s a whopping 151% increase.

Once again, topping the list of healthcare worker (HCW) roles among the COVID-19 cases is care aides, most of whom work in long term care. They account for 848 cases since the pandemic began – 23% of all the cases.

The next hardest-hit category is nurses. Registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses account for 836 cases. Among others providing healthcare, there have been 138 dental professionals infected; 124 physicians; 62 occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and respiratory therapists; 49 working in pharmacies; and 37 emergency medical personnel. The complete chart is below.

It would appear that many HCW are reluctant to disclose their roles when asked during testing as there are 455 cases in the unknown/unspecified category and 306 cases in categories in which there were four or fewer COVID cases. Together, these groups account for a large proportion -21% of cases.

The data I requested covers the period up to Dec 17 when, on that day, there were a total of 44,776 lab-confirmed cases in B.C.

As of today, Christmas Eve, there have been 48,609 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and 808 deaths in B.C.

The data provides a clear validation of the approach being taken by the government to put HCW at the head of the line for vaccinations. Healthcare workers account for at least 8.1% of COVID-19 cases in B.C.. a substantial decline since the beginning of the pandemic when about a quarter of all cases were among HCW.

It is important to note that infections may have been acquired outside work settings (hospitals and other healthcare facilities). That is a point that Dr. Bonnie Henry has repeatedly stressed.

Click here to see the year-to-date epidemiology update delivered by Dr. Bonnie Henry today. Click here to see previous articles about COVID in healthcare workers.

More on the vaccination clinics: An email sent tonight from Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Rachel Galligan says additional resources have been committed to ensure healthcare workers get vaccinated “efficiently and safely.

“There are a number of logistical considerations and challenges in managing an immunization campaign of this scale. Also note, some healthcare staff arrive at vaccination clinics by shuttle bus. This can lead to a temporary queue, however, registration is completed quickly. Our immunization program continues to prioritize those most vulnerable to COVID-19, including residents and staff at long-term care homes.”

Here’s the chart from the BCCDC showing how many COVID cases there have been so far in each category of HCW: