New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 12 new cases, premier rolls up his sleeve for AstraZeneca vaccine

Higgs says he feels 'very at ease and comfortable' about getting the vaccine, which has been paused for use on those under 55.

Higgs says he's 'perfectly comfortable' getting the vaccine, Dr. Russell urges caution over Easter weekend

Premier Blaine Higgs gets the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine Wednesday in Fredericton. (CBC News)

Latest

  • No plans for bubble checkpoint at P.E.I. border
  • 12 new cases reported, 11 of them in Edmundston region
  • 135 active cases
  • Five people hospitalized, two in ICU

Premier Blaine Higgs rolled up his sleeve and got the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday.

Afterwards, he told reporters he was happy to do his part to help the province develop herd immunity to the virus that has had the world in a choke hold for more than a year.

On Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, known as NACI, recommended that AstraZeneca not be used at this time for people under 55.

The recommendation followed concerns in Europe raised by "rare cases of people under 55 having blood clots up to 20 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine."  

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell stressed at that time that the province was following that recommendation "out of an abundance of caution," noting that the occurrence of symptoms was "so rare — we're talking about 25 cases in 20 million."

On Wednesday, speaking with reporters after he was vaccinated at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Fredericton, Higgs repeated that assurance.

"The significance of the issues that have been identified are so remote," he said.

Higgs said he was pleased with the uptake at an AstraZeneca clinic planned in Saint John for those 55 and over on Thursday, hastily assembled and fully booked after Monday's decision to pause its use for residents under age 55. 

"We want to make sure everyone gets their vaccine, we don't want any [doses] sitting on shelves or unused," he said."That's why I'm here today. If I'm asking people to take this vaccine, then I should be prepared to do it myself, and I feel very at ease and comfortable doing so." 

In this Dec. 22, 2020 photo, Caleb Chung receives the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine or placebo as a trial participant for kids ages 12-15, at Duke University Health System in Durham, N.C. Pfizer said Wednesday its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12. (Richard Chung/The Associated Press)

'Unlikely' you'll have your choice of vaccines 

For residents who may still be undecided about the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Public Health noted Wednesday that currently limited supplies of vaccines make vaccine-shopping a risky business.

Residents will be told which vaccine is being offered at the clinic they are registering for, department spokesperson Shawn Berry said in an email.

"But given limited supplies of vaccine at this time, it is unlikely that anyone will have an option about which vaccine they can receive."

Berry noted that "we need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible" to build population immunity.

"Approved COVID-19 vaccines are all effective in preventing severe outcomes ..." he said. "The best vaccine is the one that is available to you in the shortest timeframe."

At this time, most pharmacy and regional health authority clinics are using the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

There are some clinics that have offered AstraZeneca to patients aged 55 and older, and that was clearly communicated at the time of registration, Berry said.

Of the 10,500 doses of AstraZeneca the province has received to date, more than 7,500 doses have been administered as of Wednesday.

About 6,000 doses were for use before April 2, Berry said. 

"As of today there are about 330 of those doses remaining and we expect they will all be used before April 2," he said.

Travellers had to endure lineups, sometimes hundreds of vehicles deep, during the early days of the Atlantic bubble last year. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News file photo)

No plans for bubble checkpoint at P.E.I., N.B. border

Travellers crossing the border into New Brunswick from Prince Edward Island won't face a screening process when the Atlantic bubble reopens, a spokesperson for the province's Justice and Public Safety Department said Wednesday.

During the first Atlantic bubble, Islanders entering New Brunswick – and New Brunswickers returning home from the Island – often had to wait in long lineups and answer COVID-19 screening questions at a checkpoint in Cape Jourimain.

Asked if New Brunswick would re-establish that checkpoint this time around, Department of Justice and Public Safety spokesperson Coreen Enos said it would not.

"There is no plan to reinstate border controls between New Brunswick and P.E.I.," Enos said in an email Wednesday.

"Travellers have to register now. No decision has been made as to when that requirement will be eliminated."

Enos did not address the province's plans for the Nova Scotia border.

Earlier this month, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin made the surprise announcement that Nova Scotia's borders would reopen to New Brunswickers ahead of the tentative bubble reopening date of April 19.

As of March 20, New Brunswickers have not had to isolate upon entering the province.

New Brunswick has not changed its self-isolation policy for travellers entering the province from Nova Scotia.

New Brunswick vaccination data as of Wednesday, March 31. (CBC News)

12 new cases, Russell urges caution over Easter

Public Health reported 12 new cases of COVID-19, in two zones, on Wednesday.

The cases break down in this way:

Fredericton region, Zone 3, one case:

  • an individual 50-59. This case is travel related and the individual is self-isolating.

Edmundston region, Zone 4, 11 cases:

  • three people 19 and under 
  • an individual 20-29 
  • an individual 30-39 
  • an individual 40-49 
  • two people 50-59 
  • an individual 60-69 
  • two people 70-79 

All 11 cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and are all self-isolating.

There are currently 135 active cases in the province. (CBC News)

The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1,613. Since Tuesday, three people have recovered for a total of 1,447 recoveries. There have been 30 deaths, and the number of active cases is 135.

Five patients are hospitalized, including two in an intensive care unit. A total of 256,317 tests have been conducted, including 1,589 since Tuesday's report.

In a news release Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell urged residents to keep the number of direct contacts low over Easter.

"The temptation to gather with friends and loved ones will be great this weekend," Russell said.

"Let's work together to fight COVID-19 by observing the Easter weekend safely and keeping our contacts low. We have come so far through this pandemic and we now have vaccinations taking place. Let's not risk falling backwards through laxness in safety protocols."

Vaccination clinics for staff at high schools

All high schools at which staff were able to participate in vaccination clinics last week will resume full-time, in-person learning on April 12, as planned, Public Health said Wednesday.

Vaccination clinics for high school staff in the Bathurst region have been rescheduled for Thursday, April 1, and for staff in the Shediac region for Saturday, April 3. To allow for the 14 days to pass after receiving the vaccination, the return to full-time, in-person learning at these high schools will resume on April 19.

A vaccination clinic in the Bathurst region will be available for staff from the following schools on April 1:

  • Dalhousie Regional High School
  • Sugarloaf Senior High School in Campbellton
  • École Aux quatre vents in Dalhousie
  • Polyvalente Roland-Pépin in Campbellton
  • Bathurst High School
  • École Secondaire Népisiguit in Bathurst

These schools will be closed to students on April 1 to allow staff to be vaccinated and to plan for the full return to school.

Vaccination clinics in the Shediac region will be available for staff from the following schools on April 3:

  • Bonar Law Memorial High School in Rexton
  • École Mgr-Marcel-François-Richard in Saint-Louis de Kent
  • École Clément-Cormier in Bouctouche
  • Polyvalente Louis-J.-Robichaud in Shediac

More detailed information about the rescheduled clinic dates and registration will be sent directly to the appropriate school staff.

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:

  • A fever above 38 C.

  • A new cough or worsening chronic cough.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny nose.

  • Headache.

  • New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.

  • Difficulty breathing.

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.

  • Follow instructions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marie Sutherland is a web writer with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. You can reach her at marie.sutherland@cbc.ca.

With files from Jacques Poitras

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