Prototype COVID-19 vaccination clinic for those 80 and older opens in Halifax
Clinic will run between Feb. 22-25 at IWK Health Centre
The first prototype clinic for vaccinating people 80 and older in Nova Scotia against COVID-19 is up and running in Halifax this morning at the IWK Health Centre.
Bernice Burns, 82, was the first one to get a shot at 8 a.m.
"It's an honour really, it really is," Burns said after rolling up her sleeve for the vaccination. "I was very excited when they called me."
Burns said she won't necessarily be going out more until everyone else also has the vaccine. Maybe when she gets the second dose she'll feel safer, she said, but that doesn't mean she'll start ducking any public health rules.
When asked what she would tell her friends about getting the vaccine, Burns said there's "nothing to it.
"I'd tell them just don't be afraid. Just go get it, and (feel) fortunate enough to be able to be getting it," Burns said.
Five hundred people have been invited to get their first shot at the clinic over the next four days. They were chosen randomly from among people 80 years and older who live within 100 kilometres of the IWK. They will receive a followup shot in several weeks.
The first prototype clinic is designed to figure out the most efficient way to vaccinate the 48,000 people in the province over the age of 80.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said clinic staff will examine the best way to make sure that people are aware of the clinic and to get them through the doors. Researchers at today's clinic will conduct interviews with people being vaccinated.
"We're going to get some of that input from the interviews we'll do with the 500 people coming into the clinic, but we knew that starting with a letter from MSI ... that is clearly an identification of people's age," said Strang.
"We made sure that we're standing up, ready to go March 1 once we move to clinics that don't require the specific invitation ... all this is about continuous learning and improving," he said.
Strang said he anticipates everyone in the 80-plus age group to have received their two doses by early to mid-April during the Phase 1 rollout. Vaccines received in late April will start to be distributed to the next age category — 75 to 79-year-olds — and will move down by five-year increments as each group is completed.
Phase 1 has also been focused on immunizing staff, designated caregivers and residents of long-term care home and residential facilities, and health workers who work with patients in hospital or in their homes.
So far, Nova Scotia has reported administering 27,521 doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, including 11,533 people who have received a second dose.
Millbrook clinic opens Wednesday
On Wednesday at noon, the first clinic at a Mi'kmaw community is opening on Millbrook First Nation. That clinic is being run out of the local health centre, with Mi'kmaw health officials leading the way and determining how people will be prioritized to receive the vaccine.
"They have identified they'd like starting at age 55, because of their different age demographics in their community," Strang said.
"It's very important that they have their language and knowledge keepers immunized early, protecting some of that culture."
According to Statistics Canada, in 2017 First Nations populations had a lower life expectancy than the general Canadian population, at 73-74 years for men and 78-80 years for women. This compares to 79 years for men and 83 years for women in the total population.
"The Mi'kmaq are uniquely exposed to the risks of COVID-19 and given the risks to older individuals in particular, it is especially important that we protect Elders who maintain our history, oral traditions and language," Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade said in a statement.
"We are encouraging individuals to become immunized to protect the health and wellness of our Elders and our communities."
In the coming weeks, more clinics for people who are 80 and older as of March 1 will be opening around the province. Those people will receive a letter from MSI notifying them of the launch.
People who turn 80 following March 1 will be able to book an appointment on their birthday.
Clinics will open around the province in:
- Monday, March 8: Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro.
- Monday, March 15: Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth.
- Monday, March 22: Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth.