N.B. COVID-19 roundup: No new cases, Pfizer shortage as eligibility for 2nd doses expands again
Everyone 12 and older can book their 2nd dose Monday, as long as 28 days have passed since their 1st
- Pfizer shots switched to Moderna
- 19.2% have two doses
- 54 active cases
- No new cases reported in Atlantic region
- Positive case at Eastern College in Saint John
- Visitation to long-term care facilities increased
- Hospital visiting restrictions for travellers
- Latest public exposures
- Previous public exposures
Public Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 Monday and a delayed shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as eligibility for second-dose appointments expanded to include all New Brunswickers aged 12 and older, if at least 28 days have passed since they received their first dose.
Many people jumped at the chance to book, based on the government's online tool.
Around 9 a.m., nearly 5,000 people were queued up for more than two hours.
People who logged in later, thinking they might miss the early morning rush, were in for a surprise. Around 11:30 a.m., nearly 11,000 users were waiting to get into the website. The estimated wait time was "more than an hour," but it took about two-and-a-half hours for some people to book.
During the afternoon, the number of people attempting to register continued to hover between roughly 11,000 and 14,000.
Department of Health spokesperson Gail Harding confirmed "a large increase in volume" of people accessing the site. As of noon hour, about 12,000 people had registered for appointments, she said.
Given the high volume, many people were directed to the queuing page.
"If you are directed to this page, remain on it as this page allows you to maintain your priority while those who accessed the scheduler before you complete their booking," Harding said in an email.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, urged everyone to be patient.
"We will have enough doses of vaccine for everyone, and your turn will come soon," she said in a statement, noting available appointments may now be "a few weeks away."
Pfizer shots switched to Moderna
Although a shipment of Pfizer will not arrive in New Brunswick this week as anticipated, "this delay will not impact second dose clinics," Public Health said in a news release.
Most Horizon and Vitalité health network clinics taking place between Tuesday and Friday will offer people the Moderna vaccine instead. The regional health authority clinics scheduled in Oromocto and Woodstock on Tuesday and the clinic taking place in Harvey on Wednesday will continue to use Pfizer.
"The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are completely interchangeable," said Russell. "They work the same way and are equally effective, regardless of which one is used as a first or second dose.
"By offering Moderna at scheduled second dose clinics, we are ensuring maximum protection against COVID-19 and its variants," she said.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization updated its recommendations last week to say that people who received Moderna or Pfizer as their first shot get the same product for their second shot.
Although both are mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines and can be considered "interchangeable," the second shot should match the first unless "the same product is not readily available, or the product used for the first dose is unknown," NACI said.
New Brunswick was scheduled to receive 49,140 doses of Pfizer this week, according to the federal government's vaccine shipments and deliveries website.
Pfizer will continue to be made available for children aged 12 to 17 who were scheduled to be vaccinated, Public Health said. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for use in Canada for anyone under the age of 18.
Public Health recommends people under the age of 55 who received AstraZeneca as their first dose get Pfizer or Moderna as their second dose, unless contraindicated. People 55 or older can choose to have a second dose of AstraZeneca, with informed consent, or opt for Pfizer or Moderna instead.
NACI also changed its recommendations for people who received AstraZeneca for their first dose. It now says an mRNA vaccine is "preferred" as the second dose and mitigates the rare risk of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) — a condition that causes blood clots combined with low platelets, the committee said.
People with upcoming second-dose Pfizer appointments were notified by Public Health Monday of the change.
"Due to the allocation of vaccines from the [federal] government we must change this clinic day to the Moderna vaccine," the notice states.
"You are welcome to keep your appointment on this date and location — which means you will be receiving the Moderna vaccine.
"If you would like to cancel and rebook yourself to a Pfizer clinic you are welcome to do so. … Thank you for your understanding."
The shortage also became apparent through the online booking tool Monday. During the morning, people booking their second shot were initially offered three options: Pfizer, Moderna, or the first vaccine available, Pfizer or Moderna. Later in the day, the Pfizer-only option was no longer available for appointments within the next couple of weeks. People could only choose Moderna or the first vaccine available, Pfizer or Moderna.
Appointments later in July, however, offered all three options.
Department of Health officials did not respond to a request for information about when the delayed shipment of Pfizer is expected to arrive or about the province's current supply of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Another 49,140 doses of Pfizer are slated for next week, followed by 18,720 July 5-11 and 29,250 July 12-18.
A total of 115,640 doses of Moderna are due to arrive over the next couple of days, followed by another 20,720 doses by next Tuesday.
No shipments of AstraZeneca are scheduled.
If possible, people are asked to book an appointment at the same clinic or pharmacy where they received their first dose. They should bring a copy of the record of immunization they were given, a signed consent form and their medicare card.
First-dose appointments are also still available.
Ontario took the same approach as New Brunswick, offering those slated for a second dose of Pfizer this week a Moderna vaccine instead. In Quebec, those with booked Pfizer appointments will still be able to get their shot, but walk-in clinics will only be able to offer Moderna or AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines for now.
19.2% have two doses
A total of 76.4 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, up from 76.3 per cent on Sunday, and 19.2 per cent received their second dose, up from 18.7 per cent.
Public Health has set the target to have 75 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and older fully vaccinated before the province can move to the green phase of COVID-19 recovery, with no more restrictions.
The goal is to reach the target by Aug. 2, New Brunswick Day, but Premier Blaine Higgs said last week he doesn't think it will take that long.
Oliver Dueck, a software developer based in Fredericton who has been tracking the province's vaccine data for the past few months, predicts the province will hit the target on Aug. 9, based on the seven-day average of second doses.
The 2,856 second doses added to the COVID-19 dashboard Monday bumped the average to 7,873 per day, he said.
Meanwhile, only 745 first doses were recorded — the lowest number since May 10, Dueck said.
New Brunswick moved to Phase 2 of the path to green last week, ahead of its July 1 target, just one day after hitting its Phase 1 vaccination goal. Now, the province has opened its borders to the rest of Canada and loosened some restrictions.
54 active cases
New Brunswick has 54 active cases of COVID-19, Public Health reported Monday.
Five people are hospitalized in the province, including two in intensive care.
New Brunswick has had 2,318 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 2,218 recoveries so far and 45 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 357,341 tests have been conducted, including 407 on Sunday.
No new cases reported in Atlantic region
Nova Scotia had no new cases of COVID-19 Monday, the first day since late March without new infections, and is down to 79 active cases.
Prince Edward Island has reported no new cases since June 3, and has no active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador is marking a government holiday Monday and has not updated its COVID-19 site since Friday. There were no new cases that day and the number of active cases stood at 22.
Positive case at Eastern College in Saint John
The Saint John campus of Eastern College is closed for two weeks after a positive case of COVID-19 has been identified, according to a notice sent to students on Friday evening.
The person who tested positive was last on campus on Friday, the notice said.
"All individuals that were determined to have come in close contact with this person have been notified and advised to quarantine and Public Health will be following up with further direction."
The campus will be closed until July 5 and deep cleaned, it said.
Students with questions are advised to contact regional director of operations Simone Maillet.
Maillet could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
The college has not been listed as a potential public exposure site even though some members of the general public visit the campus for things, such as massages.
Department of Health officials did not respond to a request for comment.
More visiting at long-term care homes allowed
General visiting at long-term care homes increased to 50 per cent capacity Monday, the Department of Social Development announced.
"All COVID-19 safety measures remain in place in facilities, and it is important to continue to follow them to protect vulnerable residents," the department said in a news release.
Visitors will be provided with a medical mask upon entering, they will be screened for COVID, asked for their contact information, and they must maintain physical distancing during their visit.
"Visitors from outside the province who are permitted to come to New Brunswick under the mandatory order are permitted to enter nursing homes and adult residential facilities, following the same protocols," it said.
Eighteen of the province's long-term care homes still have less than half their staff fully vaccinated, according to the department's website.
The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has 12 per cent of its facilities with under-vaccinated staff, the highest amount in the province. The next highest is the Miramichi region, Zone 7, at five per cent of its facilities.
On May 27, Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch announced mandatory testing for unvaccinated workers in facilities where the vaccination rate is under 50 per cent. They must take a rapid COVID-19 test every other day, he said, citing "unacceptable" low vaccination rates.
Hospital visiting restrictions for travellers
New Brunswickers who have travelled outside of the province and visitors from other regions may not immediately be able to visit loved ones in the hospital, the Horizon Health Network has advised.
"New Brunswick is on the Path to Green, but Yellow Level safety measures are still in place at Horizon facilities to protect our patients and staff," the regional health authority reminded the public on its website in an update to its visitor guidelines.
Visitors who have travelled outside of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AtlanticBubble?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AtlanticBubble</a>, including the counties of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Avignon?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Avignon</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/T%C3%A9miscouata?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Témiscouata</a>, and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Listuguj?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Listuguj</a> First Nation in the last 14 days will require an exemption prior to being permitted to visit patients.—@HorizonHealthNB
People who have travelled outside of the Atlantic provinces, the counties of Avignon and Témiscouata in Quebec, and Listuguj First Nation in the last 14 days will require an exemption prior to being permitted to visit patients within a Horizon facility, it said.
The Vitalité Health Network said in its updated visitor guidelines the only exemptions in such cases will be for end-of-life patients and patients who are receiving medical aid in dying. Exemptions must be requested, it said.
Latest public exposures
Public Health has identified new potential public exposures to the virus in the following regions:
Saint John region, Zone 2:
- Needs Fast Fuel, 100 Main St., Sussex, June 13, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Fredericton region, Zone 3:
- Holy Rosary Church Hall, 26 Father Dysart Lane, Minto, June 15, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
- Pentecostal Gospel Lighthouse Church, 283 Slope Rd., Minto, June 6 to June 18.
Public Health is offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who has been in a public exposure area, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms. Residents may request a test online or call Tele-Care 811.
People experiencing one or more symptoms are also encouraged to get tested.
Previous public exposures
Public Health has identified numerous potential public exposures to the coronavirus in many communities across the province, so many that it has stopped listing them individually in its daily news release.
A detailed list of the potential exposures, including the locations and dates, is available on the government's COVID-19 website. It is updated regularly.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:
Fever above 38 C.
New cough or worsening chronic cough.
New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should:
Stay at home.
Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.
Describe symptoms and travel history.