Nfld. & Labrador

No new cases of COVID-19 in N.L. as province keeps eye on new vaccine shipment

There are no new cases of COVID-19 being reported in Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, as the province's vaccination plan continues to roll out.

New recovery means N.L. now has 18 active cases

The first doses of the Moderna vaccine will be sent to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to be distributed to isolated communities on the north coast of Labrador. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine continues to be limited to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's as the inoculation site, due to manufacturer restrictions. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, as the province's vaccination plan continues to roll out.

The province's active caseload also dropped by one with the announcement of a new recovery in the Eastern Health region. This means there are now 18 active cases throughout the province, all of which are on the island. 

There have been 365 recoveries since March, and one person remains in hospital due to the virus.

The Department of Health also issued an update on the single case reported Tuesday, which at the time was still under investigation by public health. 

Tuesday's case is travel-related, the government said. The person had returned to the province from work in Manitoba.

First doses of the Moderna vaccine were expected to arrive by the end of Wednesday, Health Minister John Haggie said Tuesday.

There is a second shipment expected on Jan. 11. While Haggie said there is no set schedule for future shipments, the province is expecting a total of 9,000 doses from Moderna in the first quarter of 2021.

Since the Moderna vaccine is easier to transport and has fewer manufacturer restrictions than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first 2,400 doses will be headed directly to isolated areas in Northern Labrador.

"I think most people are happy to hear that. It's the only chance we got against fighting the pandemic other than keeping people totally out of our community," said AngajukKâk of Rigolet, Charlotte Wolfrey, leader of the Inuit community government.

About 300 people live in her community. 

"We don't have any kind of ventilator to put anybody on. We've got a couple of nurses here that do the best they can with what they've got."

Wolfrey said medical emergencies require evacuation by air, and that's only when the weather cooperates.

She said in the last 10 months there was a lot of worry that COVID-19 would appear in her community. 

Gerald Asivak, the Nunatsiavut government's health minister, says he still expects the Moderna vaccine to arrive by Thursday. (Submitted by AHS)

"We did the best we could to try to make sure that people stay safe. We shut down when everybody else shut down," she said, adding the community followed strict COVID-19 guidelines for physical distancing, mask-wearing and hygiene. 

"It's been a struggle, but we've been really lucky and I think people have been really disciplined in trying to keep this pandemic out of Labrador."

Gerald Asivak, the Nunatsiavut government's health minister, said he has been working with all levels of government for weeks, adding people have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a vaccine in his area.

He told CBC News he's still expecting the Moderna vaccine by Thursday. 

"The rollout will be shortly thereafter to the five Labrador Inuit communities of Nain, Hopedale, Postdale, Rigolet, Makkovik," he said.

"Our plan right now is the health-care workers and the elderly within each community, aged 18 and up."

Asivak said the vaccination rate will be about 80 to 90 per cent for those communities, starting in Makkovik. 

Pfizer-BioNTech shipments continue

Meanwhile, shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine continue to be sent to the province and administered out of the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's.

Once the ultra-low freezers arrive in other areas of the province, those doses will be distributed more widely. But until then, Pfizer-BioNTech requires its product is sent only to the location with an ultra-low freezer.

The province has had more freezers on order, but they are in high demand worldwide.

The province's vaccination plan prioritizes front-line health-care workers who would respond to COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as seniors and those in long-term care facilities, and remote, isolated Indigenous communities.

As of Wednesday, 72,147 people have been tested in the province, an increase of 173 since Tuesday's update. 

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