Province will continue holding back 2nd vaccine dose until supply assured
'We cannot waste a single dose of this vaccine,' premier says
Nova Scotia will continue to hold back second doses of COVID-19 vaccine until it is guaranteed there will be no interruption in supply.
"We cannot waste a single dose of this vaccine and we are continuing to give the first shot and hold back the second shot to guarantee people a full vaccination," Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news briefing Friday.
McNeil said he understands the concerns people have with the rollout, but stressed the importance of moving the vaccine throughout the province safely and effectively.
He said the province has administered 7,600 doses of the vaccine as of late Thursday, which includes 2,200 front-line health-care workers who have received their second dose.
McNeil also said all front-line workers and residents at Northwood's Halifax campus, the long-term care home where 53 people died due to the virus last spring, have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the province had received 13,000 doses of vaccine prior to Thursday. Most of that supply has been administered or has been scheduled for second doses.
The province has since received another 10,000 doses, which will be administered starting Monday. Strang expects all of those doses to be used by the end of next week.
"Our goal is to make sure that we have a constant and steady supply of vaccines going to clinics," Strang said.
"We don't want to have a surplus of vaccines in the province but also we have to be cognizant that we have to make sure that people have access across the province … it's an ongoing balancing act."
Strang said health-care workers in the Annapolis Valley and Cape Breton have started receiving the first doses of the vaccine.
Staff, residents and designated caregivers at Shannex's Harbourstone Enhanced Care and Northside Community Guest Home, two of Nova Scotia's largest long-term care homes, are expected to start being immunized next week.
Strang said immunizations are expected to begin in the northern zone by early February as three new cold-storage units are being set up in Antigonish, Amherst and Bridgewater.
Vaccine shipments reduced
Strang also mentioned during the briefing that there would be a meeting Friday to discuss a delay in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Pfizer had recently said it will temporarily reduce shipments of its vaccine to Canada. The pharmaceutical giant is pausing some production lines at a facility in Belgium in order to expand long-term manufacturing capacity.
In an email, a spokesperson from Nova Scotia Health said it has been notified it should expect fewer Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses each week for a month.
"We have solid processes in place to manage a decrease or increase in vaccine supply. We can adjust our clinics to accommodate the amount of vaccine we receive," the email said.
Ineligible people tried to book appointments
In an email Friday, Nova Scotia Health said some people signed up to book vaccine appointments when they were ineligible.
In a statement from Angela Keenan with Nova Scotia Health, a registration link provided to health-care staff who are eligible to receive the vaccination at the Valley Regional Hospital Clinic was circulated in the community and used by people who were ineligible.
Keenan said three days of vaccination appointments were scheduled for that clinic during the week of Jan. 18, based on initial expectations around vaccine delivery, but those appointments will now be rebooked for later dates because of "updated information."
"As we rebook appointments, we will ensure that no one who may have registered in error through the circulated link is booked for vaccination at this time," the statement said.
"Screening was put in place at the vaccine clinic to confirm those booked were in fact eligible before they were vaccinated. We do not believe anyone who was ineligible received the vaccine. We are auditing our records to verify this."
Keenan also said they have heard reports of a phone number circulating that people are using to book vaccination appointments, but said there is no phone number available for that purpose.
"We recognize that Nova Scotians are eager to receive the vaccine. There will be enough vaccine for all Nova Scotians who wish to receive it. Please be patient as we work through this process," she said.
2 new cases Friday
Nova Scotia reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
One case was detected in the northern health zone and the other was identified in the central zone. Both are close contacts of previously reported cases, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Wellness.
There are now 32 known active cases in the province. No one is in hospital with the virus.
Mandatory testing for rotational workers came into effect Friday. Workers will now be required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.
If rotational workers do not get tested, they will be fined $1,000. Regardless of the test result, they must still complete their 14-day modified self-isolation.
Second positive case at Cape Breton University
On Friday, Cape Breton University said a second positive case has been found on campus.
"The student arrived this week, and since then has been isolating on-campus and following mandatory public health requirements," read a statement on the school's website. "As with the first case, it was during this isolation time the student chose to participate in asymptomatic testing, which did produce a positive result."
The province is continuing to urge students who have returned from outside of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland or P.E.I. to book a COVID-19 test on the sixth, seventh or eighth day of their quarantine, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Strang said more than 3,500 students have arrived in Nova Scotia from other provinces and more than half have been tested. So far, there have been 10 cases identified at Nova Scotia universities this month.
Any students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 must complete a self-assessment online or call 811. Students still must complete their 14-day isolation period even with a negative test result.
The two new cases announced Friday were discovered after Nova Scotia Health Authority's labs completed 2,010 tests on Thursday.
The province also completed 808 rapid tests between Jan. 8 and 14 at pop-up sites in Halifax, Lower Sackville and Yarmouth.
A mobile health unit was also set up in Truro , N.S., on Thursday in response to an increase in the number of potential exposures in the area in the last week. A full list of exposures in the province can be found here.
On Friday, Nova Scotia Health said the unit will be expanded for four more days of testing. Drop-in testing will be available on Saturday at the NSCC Truro Campus from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday through Tuesday at the convention centre in the Best Western Glengarry from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Strang said it has been two weeks since the new year began and Nova Scotia's epidemiology looks promising, but now is not the time to slack off.
He said he was disappointed to hear that some individuals who contracted COVID-19 haven't been following public health regulations and haven't been honest when disclosing their movement, or the people they've been in contact with while infected.
"This lack of information has delayed investigations and is leaving more time for the virus to spread in communities," he said.
Strang reminded Nova Scotians to follow public health regulations like hand-washing, mask-wearing, physical distancing and keeping social circles consistent with no more than 10 people.
"We are in a very precarious situation," he said. "We are one of the safest places certainly in the country, if not globally, but we can only stay here if we continue to stay committed."
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- New Brunswick reported 25 new cases on Friday and had 256 active cases. The province also reported two deaths on Tuesday and another on Wednesday, bringing the total to 12 since the start of the pandemic. Every zone of the province has been rolled back to orange-phase restrictions to deal with the growing number of cases.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Friday, with five active cases. One person is in hospital with the virus.
- P.E.I. reported one new case on Thursday. The province had eight active cases. The new case is a man in his 50s who travelled outside the region. He first tested negative but later tested positive.