New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 3 more deaths, doctors seek tougher rules for the unvaccinated

The head of the New Brunswick Medical Society says it's time to get tough with people who resist getting vaccinated against COVID-19

124 people with COVID-19 now in hospital, Public Health reports

Dr. Mark MacMillan, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, wants province to make it 'more difficult for people who haven't stepped up and gotten vaccinated - to enjoy their lives.' (New Brunswick Medical Society)

Latest

  • 417 health-care workers with COVID now isolating
  • 12 people in ICU, including nine on ventilators
  • Parents encouraged to get children vaccinated

The head of the New Brunswick Medical Society says it's time to get tough with people who resist getting vaccinated against COVID-19

Dr. Mark MacMillan is calling on the province to use penalties, such as restricted hours, reduced access, or banning people who are unvaccinated from big-box stores, such as Costco and Walmart, to encourage compliance.

But he stops short at proposing mandatory vaccinations or following the lead of Quebec and imposing a health tax on the unvaccinated.

"Health care is universal across this country, it is a right for every individual to access health care, and I want to stress that right now, that no matter what your vaccine status is in this province, if you need the health-care system, we will provide the care that we can at that time to our best effort," he said.

"It looks different now than it did two and a half years ago, for sure because of the pandemic. But we are still providing health care and we will continue to do that."

More than eight per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have still not received any vaccine, as COVID hospitalizations and case numbers continue to soar because of the Omicron variant.

MacMillan says he has been targeted on social media over his calls for tougher COVID-19 vaccination rules. (New Brunswick Medical Society/Twitter)

In a statement, Premier Blaine Higgs said he is "pleased the New Brunswick Medical Society supports the idea of taking action to encourage vaccination," and respects its advocacy for its members and for all health-care providers.

"If any changes will be made, they'll be made through Cabinet and COVID Cabinet Committee," he said.

Last week, Higgs told CBC News the province may revisit the issue of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.

Public patience is "wearing a little thin" toward the unvaccinated, he said. "They don't see why they have to have restrictions when they … have gone … the extra mile and got vaccinated."

New Brunswick may also follow Quebec's lead on asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination at liquor and cannabis stores, he has said, noting everything is "on the table" as the province seeks ways to make life "increasingly uncomfortable" for people who choose not to be vaccinated.

Higgs has asked various departments for suggestions regarding where restrictions can be tightened for the unvaccinated.

MacMillan said the province should look at the data from other jurisdictions to see what has worked in increasing vaccination rates.

"Mr. Higgs has said everything's on the table," he said. "We're suggesting everything should stay on the table and have that discussion moving forward."

He encourages meaningful, constructive dialogue by all parties.

"Sending unpleasant emails with foul language and very negative emojis … and starting off a conversation by threatening a person's health and safety doesn't encourage positive dialogue or education or discussion. That's just unpleasant and it shouldn't be done."

He has been targeted on social media for speaking out about tougher vaccination rules, he said.

"Some people when — no matter what education you provide, what discussion you have —  some people will decide in the end that vaccination just is not for them. And that's why we speak on herd immunity. We won't probably ever get 100 per cent, and that's OK.

"But if we can get to a high enough number, where the general population is safe and we're moving forward and our health-care system can recover, that's important."

As of Thursday, 34.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received a booster dose, up from 33.7 per cent from Wednesday, 83.5 per cent have received two doses, unchanged, and 91.4 per cent have received one dose, up from 91.3 per cent, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.

According to the CBC Vaccine Tracker, 79.4 per cent of the total population — not just eligible population — is double-dosed and 87 per cent have had at least one shot.

3 COVID-related deaths, 124 hospitalizations

Three more people with COVID-19 have died, bringing the total number of deaths during the pandemic in New Brunswick to 199, including 25 in the last eight days. 

The latest deaths include a person in their 70s in the Moncton region, Zone 1, a person in their 50s in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and a person in their 80s in the Edmundston region, Zone 4.

Public Health no longer distinguishes between people who died from COVID-19 and people who died from something else but also had COVID-19.

There are now 124 people in hospital who have the disease, one more than on Wednesday. Seventy-one of these patients were admitted for reasons other than COVID-19.

Twelve patients are in intensive care, up one, and nine of them on ventilators, up three.

Of the patients in hospital, 58 per cent are either unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or had their second dose of vaccine more than six months ago and haven't had a booster.

Some 417 health-care workers who have tested positive for COVID are now isolating, Public Health said. That's 75 more than on Wednesday.

The province's COVID dashboard says 488 new COVID cases were confirmed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, putting the active caseload at 4,389. That figure doesn't include people who took rapid tests and tested positive.

An additional 953 people reported online that they tested positive on rapid tests.

The regional breakdown of the PCR-confirmed cases reported includes:

  • Moncton region, Zone 1 — 168 cases
  • Saint John region, Zone 2 — 91 cases
  • Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 39 cases
  • Edmundston region Zone 4 — 69 cases
  • Campbellton region, Zone 5 — 19 cases
  • Bathurst region, Zone 6 — 88 cases
  • Miramichi region, Zone 7 — 14 cases

A total of 666,919 PCR tests have been conducted to date, including 4,580 on Wednesday, putting the positivity rate at 10.7 per cent.

New Brunswick has had 24,489 PCR-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 19,899 recoveries so far.

Parents encouraged to get children vaccinated

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health is encouraging parents and guardians of children aged five to 11 to get them booked for their first or second COVID-19 vaccine dose.

"When children are protected against COVID-19 they are less likely to contract the virus and to spread the virus to others," Dr. Jennifer Russell said in a statement.

"By getting vaccinated, kids will be better positioned to stay healthy when in-class learning resumes," she said. It will make it safer for children to play together on playgrounds, sports fields and hockey rinks.

"We need to help our kids get back to being kids."

COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children, Russell said, noting that Health Canada's drug review process is recognized around the world for its high standards.

"Young children receive a reduced vaccine dose compared to adults and the number of adverse events reported nationally is extremely low," she said.

Children aged five to 11 are eligible to receive their second dose after eight weeks have passed since their first dose.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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