1,950 New Brunswickers now expected to get first COVID-19 vaccine dose next week
All of 1st shipment will be used for initial doses because 2nd shipment guaranteed in time for 2nd doses
The New Brunswick government now says 1,950 people in the province should be able to get their first of two COVID-19 vaccine doses before Christmas.
The province confirmed on Monday that 1,950 doses of Pfizer's vaccine will arrive around Dec. 14, with a second shipment before the end of the year.
It takes two doses of the Pfizer vaccine to immunize someone against the virus.
The province says it will use all of the first shipment of doses to give 1,950 people their initial shots, because the second shipment is guaranteed to arrive in time to provide those people their subsequent shots within the required 28 days of the first ones.
"The second dose for those individuals will come from subsequent deliveries," spokesperson Shawn Berry said Tuesday morning.
The province has already set up a special storage unit as a central distribution point for the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at –80 C. It's one of 14 across the country.
Premier Blaine Higgs told the CBC's Vassy Kapelos on Monday night that officials were conducting a "dry run" of cold-storage transportation this week, and he would know later this week how distribution will work.
"It's exciting news to be talking about logistics around the vaccine," he said.
In some provinces, the difficulty of keeping the vaccine cold while it's distributed may mean people will have to travel to the sites rather than have the vaccine transported to their community.
Moderna vaccine may see wider distribution
Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told CBC's Information Morning Fredericton that an easier-to-transport second vaccine from Moderna may be the one that gets wider distribution to all corners of the province.
"That one's a lot easier to handle. … It's easier to transport around to smaller communities," he said, emphasizing the details were up to the province.
"The first one [from Pfizer] probably won't be quickly at your pharmacists' fridge and in every small town and bigger city in New Brunswick."
Berry acknowledged that it would be complicated to transport nursing home residents to a central vaccination site for the Pfizer vaccine.
Higgs said later in the day that it may be possible to get them to several secondary storage sites around the province.
LeBlanc said Canada expected to get 20 million doses of the Moderna vaccine "very early in the new year."
Nursing homes 'priority one'
The federal government and the provinces have agreed to accept recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that the first wave of vaccinations should be for high-risk groups, such as residents of long-term care homes, the people who work there and front-line health-care workers.
Five long-term care residences in New Brunswick have been hit with COVID-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began in March.
Higgs has called nursing homes "priority one" and said on Monday that "there isn't much debate in terms of the sequencing of vulnerable groups."
Provincial officials are being tight-lipped about the location of the special cold storage unit.
"We are not at the point where we want to share details of the location," Berry said.
"There are security issues that have been identified around logistics, and there have been challenges internationally when it comes to protection of the chain."
LeBlanc said military personnel from 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown "will probably be playing a leading role" in the province's rollout of its mass vaccination program.
Ottawa had said previously that enough Pfizer vaccine to immunize about three million Canadians was expected to be available between January and March. LeBlanc said the two December shipments were coming from that amount.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said last month that her goal is to get 75 per cent of the province vaccinated, something she hopes to do by next fall.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton and Power and Politics