Province needs to ramp up vaccinations to meet 'path to green' goals, says data cruncher
'Major campaign' promoting being part of New Brunswick success story will launch next week, says premier
If New Brunswick is going to hit the target dates of its "path to green" plan, it needs to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, according to one data cruncher.
Oliver Dueck, a software developer based in Fredericton, has been tracking the province's vaccine data for the past few months.
He says the province is vaccinating an average of 7,000 people a day. But it will need to start administering up to 12,000 doses per day soon to stay on track.
"It's definitely possible," said Dueck.
Meeting the targets will also depend on the supply of doses from the federal government and the demand, he said.
Under the three-phase plan to the green level of COVID recovery, the province will gradually ease Public Health restrictions, provided vaccination rate goals are met and COVID-related hospitalizations remain low.
If the province does not reach its vaccination goals, it will delay the eased restrictions, said Premier Blaine Higgs.
"We're confident that we're going to get there. But people can't say, 'Well, I think I''ll wait.' If they want us to stay on schedule, they need to do their part and they need to get vaccinated."
The province plans to launch a "major campaign on vaccinations" next week, the premier said.
It's "all about being part of the New Brunswick success story, being part of us opening up on the schedule that we've laid out."
If the province continues at its current vaccination rate, Dueck believes it will "fall a little bit shy" of the June 7 target for Phase 1, which is to have at least 75 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and over vaccinated with at least one dose.
"It's looking more like June 10 or 11."
The July 1 target for Phase 2, to have at least 20 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 65 or over vaccinated with their second dose, should be "easy to hit," said Dueck. That's only about 35,000 people, he said, and some of them might be among the nearly 40,000 New Brunswickers who already have their second shot.
The target for the final phase, to have 75 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated, is Aug. 2, which provides roughly 55 days from the first target date to administer second doses, said Dueck.
"In order to do that, we're going to need to average above 10,000 doses a day, probably closer to 12,000."
Although the province has had some record-breaking days, with more than 11,000 doses administered, the numbers tend to be lower on the weekends and holidays, he said. "So we'll definitely need to ramp up our capacity there."
Supply 'a bit up in the air'
Whether New Brunswick will have enough doses by then is "a bit up in the air," according to Dueck.
As it stands, the province is scheduled to get about a million doses by Aug. 1. That's enough for 72 per cent of New Brunswickers to get both doses, he said.
"We need at least 40,000 more doses than that."
Dueck noted the province doesn't know yet what its Moderna shipments will be after June 15.
"They [Moderna] claim that we're going to get several million doses in that timeframe, but their deliveries have not been the most reliable up until now."
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said she isn't worried about supply.
"Not at this point." The province has had regular shipments of the Pfizer-Bio-NTech vaccine, and "really good reassurance from the national level," she said.
The province is stepping up its vaccination efforts though, Russell said.
It has more than 50 clinics planned over the next 10 days through the Horizon and Vitalité health authorities.
"So now is a good time to get yourself booked in."
The hours of some clinics might even be extended, she said.
Second-dose clinics are expected to begin within two weeks. More details about how they will be handled will be available soon, Russell said.
So far, the demand for vaccines hasn't waned, said Dueck, which he sees as a good sign the province will ultimately reach its 75 per cent target.
With files from Shift and Jacques Poitras