First COVID-19 vaccine doses arrive in New Brunswick
Miramichi nursing home residents, health care workers to get vaccinated this weekend
The first 1,950 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Miramichi on Tuesday morning, though it won't be administered until Saturday.
Shawn Berry, a spokesperson for the provincial government, said a cargo flight brought the vaccine to the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport before it was driven to the Miramichi Regional Hospital.
The timing coincided with the arrival of a Cargojet flight from Montreal.
The Boeing 767-223 touched down just after 6:30 a.m., stopping along cargo terminals off Champlain Street. Masked workers removed large cargo containers through a door on the side of the plane, shuttling them to warehouses where transport trucks waited.
There was no obvious sign that indicated the potential value of the cargo it carried, and no welcome ceremony or photo-op with politicians as has occurred elsewhere.
A video released by the province shows UPS Canada staff unloading a white box, roughly a metre tall, at the hospital. Inside the box were two trays surrounded by dry ice. Each tray holds 195 vials, with each vial containing enough vaccine for five doses.
The vaccine arrived 279 days after New Brunswick reported its first COVID-19 case. More than 550 other people tested positive for the respiratory virus. Eight people have died.
The province has said the vaccine will be stored at a freezer at the Miramichi Regional Hospital, selected as it was considered a central location and had a freezer capable of storing the vaccine that must be kept at -80 C.
It's not clear why the province is waiting four days before beginning to administer the vaccine. Ontario and Quebec began vaccinations Monday.
Among the first recipients will be health care staff from around the province who will have to travel to Miramichi. Others will be residents of two Shannex nursing homes in Miramichi.
Merilda Kirkpatrick's 96-year-old mother Helen McIntrye lives at Losier Hall, one of the two Shannex homes, and has signed the consent form for the vaccine.
"She knows the pandemic that's been going around, she knows the family that's in Nova Scotia can't come," Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick said she wants to get the vaccine.
"I don't want her to get sick," she said of her mother.
"I don't want anyone carrying it in there. It makes me feel better that all the workers that go in there are going to get the shot because we've been working so hard to try to keep it out of there."
Mary McIntrye, Kirkpatrick's sister, says she's glad to see the vaccine arriving. However, she said she doesn't plan to get it because she's previously had a bad reaction to a vaccine in 2009.
"I'm not too sure that I would ever take it, but if anyone wants to take it, that would be great. I still wear my mask and stay home," Mary McIntrye said.
Kirkpatrick said she doesn't know exactly when her mother will get the vaccine.
An honour for city, health workers: Mayor
Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon called it an honour for the city and healthcare workers to be part of the first vaccinations in the province.
"It's certainly a moment to be celebrated and be optimistic about the fact that we perhaps have turned the corner here," Lordon said.
Lordon said he trusts the science and will get the vaccine once it's available.
The vaccine, approved by Health Canada after clinical trials involved about 44,000 volunteers, requires a booster shot a few weeks after the first.
New Brunswick has opted to use all of the initial doses to vaccinate 1,950 people instead of keeping half the shipment for the second dose.
Dorothy Shephard, the province's health minister, said Tuesday that 3,900 more doses will arrive next week. Those will be used as the booster shots as well as the first shots for 975 people in early January.
Another vaccine from Massachusetts-based Moderna is expected to be available in Canada by the end of the month if it also secures Health Canada approval.
Provincial officials have cautioned that it could still be many months before the vaccine is more widely available to the public.