Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia prepared to deal with reduced supply of COVID-19 vaccine, premier says

Canada will not be receiving any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, but Nova Scotia's premier says the province is prepared to deal with the delay.

Stephen McNeil says province is continuing to reserve second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Premier Stephen McNeil said Nova Scotia is working closely with the federal government as vaccines are being distributed. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Canada will not be receiving any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, but Nova Scotia's premier says the province is prepared to deal with the delay.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the province is continuing to reserve second doses of COVID-19 vaccine until a continuous supply can be guaranteed.

"If you have received your first shot or are in the process of receiving your first shot, we will have a second shot for you," McNeil said at a news briefing Tuesday.

Last week, Pfizer said it would 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.

"We continue to work with the federal government and it is our hope that this temporary shut down will not last long and any supply issues will be resolved as soon as possible," McNeil said.

According to a statement from the province, Nova Scotia won't receive 975 doses during the week of Jan. 25.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Nova Scotia was already expecting a reduction of 13,500 doses in January and February.

"It simply means we have to slow things down," Strang said at the briefing. "We only have so much vaccine available so we'll continue to work through our clinics, through our priority groups."

Strang said any reductions in February will be added to the supply the province receives in March.

He also said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was required to be stored at temperatures between –80 C and –60 C, can now be shipped throughout the province while thawed, but under strict conditions. 

"This does give us more flexibility to transport, store and administer this vaccines in the long-term care facilities, especially," he said. "It's one of the reasons we're able to put a greater emphasis and greater priorities on long-term care facilities."

However, three more cold storage sites are expected to be set up in Amherst, Antigonish and Bridgewater by the end of January. Each site will have a freezer suitable for the Pfizer vaccine, a regular freezer for the Moderna vaccine and refrigerator space for vaccines expected to be approved in the future.

Vaccine rollout breakdown

The province has received 23,500 doses of the vaccine since Dec. 15, which includes 9,550 doses that arrived on Jan. 13-14, according to officials at a technical briefing that was not for attribution on Tuesday. 

Half of the doses that arrived last week have been stored to be used as second shots.

Strang said a shipment of 5,850 doses will arrive later this week.

As of Monday, 8,520 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to health-care workers and long-term care residents, staff and caregivers in Nova Scotia. Of those vaccinated, 2,215 have received a second dose.

Truro nurse Zoe Ahern was the first health-care worker in the northern zone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Ahern works in the emergency department at Colchester East Hants Health Centre. (David Sorcher)

There are now clinics immunizing health-care workers in all four health zones in the province, as the first vaccines were administered in the northern zone on Tuesday.

Zoe Ahern, a nurse who works in the emergency department at Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, was the first health-care worker in the region to receive the vaccine.

Nova Scotia has developed a phased approach to distributing the vaccines. Phase 1 has already begun and it will continue until the end of April.

In the next 30 days, immunization clinics for health-care workers are expected to be opened at the IWK, at Yarmouth Regional Hospital and St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish, adding to the four existing sites.

In the next 60 days, the province will also start running prototype clinics for individuals over 80 in Halifax and Truro.

Nicole Robinson, an LPN with Nova Scotia Public Health, prepares the first COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in the northern zone. (David Sorcher)

Elderly Nova Scotians in these areas can expect to receive a letter from the province's Medical Services Insurance, or MSI, with instructions about how to book their appointment online or by phone.

The province will also conduct prototype clinics in First Nations and African Nova Scotia communities.

Health-care workers at Cumberland Regional Hospital and South Shore Regional Hospital will also be vaccinated during this time.

In the next 90 days, mass immunization clinics for the targeted groups will be established in the communities with cold storage sites.

There are currently six cold storage sites operating in Nova Scotia, in Yarmouth, Kentville, Truro, Sydney and two in Halifax.

The province will also establish prototype clinics at multiple pharmacies, primary health-care centres and outreach clinics during this phase.

Clinic volunteers needed

Strang said the Nova Scotia College of Nursing has started issuing conditional licences to retired nurses for free so they can help with immunization clinics. He said 125 have received licences in six days.

Strang also said other health-care profession regulators, including the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Doctors Nova Scotia, the Pharmacists Association of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists, have also been issuing licences to retired clinicians to help with vaccinations. 

The province is also looking for volunteers outside the health-care industry.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer at immunization clinics may apply on the Nova Scotia's health authority's website.

4 new cases

Nova Scotia reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

One new case is in the province's northern health zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Wellness.

The other three are in the central zone and are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. The people are self-isolating.

One of the infected individuals is a student who virtually attends two Nova Scotia universities. The student lives off-campus.

Strang said at the briefing that the outbreak at Eden Valley Poultry in Berwick, N.S., is officially over as of Monday. The plant had to shut down in December after a handful of workers tested positive for the virus.

There are now 22 known active cases in the province, down three from Monday's report. No one is in hospital with the virus.

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 2,016 tests on Monday.

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • New Brunswick reported 31 new cases on Tuesday. The province is also reporting an additional death, bringing the total number to 13. One person is in hospital with the virus. The province is rolling the Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton regions back to red phase restrictions, joining the Edmundston region. There are now 316 active cases.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases Tuesday and had five active cases. One person is in hospital with the virus.
  • P.E.I. reported two new cases on Tuesday, one related to travel. The other is a close contact of a previously reported case. The province has seven active cases.