New Brunswick

P.E.I. man offers ultra-low-temperature tuna freezers to N.B. for vaccine storage

A former New Brunswicker living on Prince Edward Island has found himself in a unique position to assist the province's rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Jason Tompkins, formerly of Fredericton, owns four freezers capable of storing vaccines

Crews worked to move two lab-approved freezers that can reach –87 C from a tuna plant in North Lake, P.E.I. to Charlottetown. (Submitted by Jason Tompkins)

A former New Brunswicker living on Prince Edward Island has found himself in a unique position to assist the province's  rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Jason Tompkins owns a tuna processing facility on PEI and happens to have four ultra-low-temperature freezers capable of storing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was approved earlier this week by Health Canada. 

He offered to loan a pair of them to the P.E.I. provincial government. They took him up on the offer, picking the freezers up earlier this week with a transport truck. 

"Because we buy and have this type of equipment, we know it's not something you just find at your local Leon's," said Tompkins, the owner of One Tuna in North Lake, P.E.I. 

Jason Tompkins, owner of One Tuna, is lending P.E.I. two lab-approved super freezers that can reach minus 87 degrees. (CBC)

He's also offering a pair of the lab-grade freezers to the New Brunswick government. 

And the province is considering the offer to assist with the New Brunswick rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"We are going to acquire a few more details from the kind gentleman who made this offer," said Greg MacCallum, the director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. "But it is our intention, certainly, to factor that into our considerations and if we identify a need for it, we'll certainly be in contact with him about that very generous offer." 

New Brunswick announced Thursday that the province's first shipment of the vaccine would be stored in a recently installed ultra-low-temperature freezer at the Miramichi Regional Hospital. Additional freezers will be used around the province as more shipments of the vaccine are made available. That's where Tompkins' freezers could come into play. 

Greg MacCallum, the director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said the province is considering Tompkins offer to New Brunswick as it prepares to roll-out its first COVID-19 vaccines. (Ed Hunter/CBC News)

Tompkins, formerly of Fredericton, normally uses the freezers to store tuna that is designated to become sushi. He said the fishing season typically ends in November and he likely won't need them again until summer. 

He's also refused any kind of payment for them, turning down P.E.I.'s offer to rent the freezers while in its possession. 

"We politely declined," said Tompkins, who is currently the only worker at the company. He says at its peak in the summer ,there might be a total of eight employees at One Tuna. 

Crews work to move two lab-approved super freezers that can reach minus 87 degrees from a tuna plant in North Lake to Charlottetown. (Jason Tompkins)

But people have been paying Tompkins in gratitude. He says thank-you messages have been pouring in from across the country, including an email from a class of Grade 1 and 2 students at Queen Elizabeth Elementary School in Calgary.  

"Also [they] were telling us they had the chance to go on to our website and learn a little bit about Maritime life and tuna fishing," said Tompkins. "It's the little messages like that that certainly make it all worthwhile." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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