Tracadie N95 mask supplier gets ready to double production
Fanny Pallot says it feels good to create jobs on the Acadian Peninsula
Fanny Pallot says the spark for her business idea came to her in the oilsands.
Working in Alberta in occupational health and safety, she'd been tasked with sourcing protective equipment at the onset of the pandemic.
"And I couldn't get the supply. I couldn't get the N-95s," said Pallot, now president of Alpha Medical Manufacturing. "They were challenging to get in Canada.
"So I started talking to my very solid team about how can we make a respirator? What is it about this little piece that's so difficult to get here or to make?"
The N95 mask, also known as the N95 respirator, gets its name because it blocks at least 95 per cent of airborne particles.
Increasingly, public health experts have come to endorse it as the gold standard for mask protection against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Back in 2020, Pallot and her partners were working ahead of that trend.
After doing their research, they sourced a robotic manufacturing system in China and set it up in Tracadie.
Pallot said she had wanted to come home after 15 years of working in Edmonton and Fort McMurray and getting her degree at the University of Alberta.
"Suddenly, you find that you want to go back to the source where you belong," she said. "There's a lot of love here."
Pallot's company now produces 34,000 masks every 24 hours.
They're sold individually wrapped, 20 to a box.
So far, they're available online and in some New Brunswick locations, including some Shoppers Drug Mart and Home Hardware stores, and at Jean Coutu.
Pallot had already planned to grow her output when Canada's chief public health officer urged Canadians to ditch their cloth masks.
In December, Dr. Theresa Tam told CBC News that cloth masks don't provide protection against Omicron.
She also said that even the three-ply surgical masks might not be enough, saying N95-type respirators are a better fit for people's faces.
Pallot said this triggered a flood of inquiries from all across the country.
"Since Dr. Tam went on air and really encouraged Canadians to wear N95s, it went crazy at our end," she said.
Another boost was getting certified by the Canadian Standards Association.
Ottawa also recently authorized Alpha Medical as a supplier of medical devices, including N95 respirators, for uses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pallot said she's now waiting for a second manufacturing machine to arrive from China.
It will be capable of making 2.7 million masks per month.
Pallot said she's also hiring.
She said she'll need 40 people, including workers for a night shift.
Pallot said she's not only happy to be home, she's also feeling good about creating some employment in the Acadian Peninsula.
"For me, I'm very proud of my culture and proud of my roots," she said. "And I'm glad to have something to give."