Nova Scotia

Booster COVID-19 shots coming soon for long-term care residents in N.S.

Booster shots and flu shots will be ready soon for residents of long-term care homes.

Long-term care residents will be able to get their flu shot at the same time

Premier Tim Houston, Alyson Lamb, Nova Scotia Health's executive director of the western zone, and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, provide an update on COVID-19 on Oct. 19. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be rolled out to long-term care residents in Nova Scotia starting next week, as the province reports 12 new cases and 187 active cases of the illness.

Staff at long-term care facilities will contact residents and designated caregivers with specific information about booster shots, said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.

Strang said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that long-term care residents receive a booster at least six months after the primary vaccine series. Since long-term care residents were among the first in Nova Scotia to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the six-month window has already passed for most.

Residents in long-term care will have the opportunity to receive an annual flu shot at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine, and other Nova Scotians can get a flu shot at a pharmacy or doctor's office starting Monday.

Starting today, bookings for third doses will be opened to those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and meet the eligibility criteria

Strang said people with a compromised immune system may respond differently to vaccines, with lower antibody response and lower vaccine effectiveness. 

Nova Scotians who are eligible for a third dose must bring documentation verifying their eligibility, but do not need a letter from their doctor or nurse practitioner, Strang said.

QR code reader available starting Friday

Starting Friday, a QR code reader called VaxCheckNS will be available for businesses and organizations to download to quickly confirm a potential patron's vaccine status.

The app will allow operators to scan the QR code provided by a potential patron and see either a green sign confirming vaccination or a red sign showing that the person is not fully vaccinated.

"This will make it faster and easier for everyone to show their proof of vaccination at a restaurant, a recreational facility or any other places where proof is required," Strang said.

He said it's not essential that Nova Scotians download a new proof of vaccine with a QR code, but it is encouraged. Those who do not download their QR code are permitted to show a proof of vaccination either on paper or on a mobile device.

In-school transmission prompted closures

Strang said an increase in transmission within schools is what prompted the closure of three schools this week. Dartmouth South Academy, Joseph Howe Elementary and Ecole Mer et Monde are closed due to COVID-19 cases connected to each school. Duc d'Anville Elementary was closed last week but reopened Monday.

One case of transmission within a school generally does not shut it down, but when more start to emerge, closure is considered, Strang said.

He said the closed schools all had 10 to 15 cases. Most schools that have had cases but were not closed had two or three cases.

In the majority of cases at schools that have closed, the introduction of the virus was by "people from the community bringing the virus into the school," Strang said.

"I know the situation around closed schools is concerning for families and school staff and I don't want to downplay your concerns, but I do want to put that in a somewhat bigger context," Strang said.

He pointed out that out of 370 public schools in the province, 44 have had at least one case. Of those 44, 11 have required increase public health measures, and only four have had to close.

Take-home test kits still valid

Strang confirmed that rapid COVID-19 tests sent home with students earlier this month are still good, even if the expiry date has passed.

Public Health received questions from families about the tests, since some have an expiry date of May 2021.

Strang said he has confirmed with Health Canada as well as the manufacturers that all the tests are good for 10 months after the expiry date.

'Verbally abusive' vaccine recipients

Several hundred people a day are going to vaccine clinics across the province to get their first shots. 

Strang said since the proof of vaccine policy came into place, some vaccine recipients have been "verbally abusive" to staff.

"This is unacceptable and needs to stop. Be thankful that you have an opportunity to protect yourself, your family and your community and be kind to those who are providing the vaccine for you."

12 new cases

The province reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including eight in the central zone and four in the western zone.

Fourteen people are in hospital with COVID-19, including four in intensive care.

There are currently 187 active cases of the virus in Nova Scotia.

There is an outbreak of COVID-19 at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, N.S.

Three patients in a non-COVID unit have tested positive for COVID-19. Two of the three cases are asymptomatic, and one person is in intensive care.

Nova Scotia Health is testing other patients and staff who have been identified as close contacts.

Atlantic Canada COVID-19 case numbers

  • New Brunswick reported 50 new cases and three deaths on Tuesday. The province has 774 active cases and 57 people in hospital, including 18 in intensive care.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported eight new cases and two more deaths on Monday. There are 47 active cases, and six people are in hospital with the virus, including two in critical care.
  • Prince Edward Island reported three new cases on Tuesday. The province has seven active cases.