King says now not the time for P.E.I. to give up any vaccine doses
Hospitalization called 'stark reminder of the precarious situation we find ourselves in'
Prince Edward Island's premier is rejecting calls in some quarters for provinces with few COVID-19 cases to send their vaccine allocations to worse-off regions.
"While it is in our nature as Islanders to always try to be helpful and supportive of all Canadians during times of difficulty, we don't feel this is the time to deviate from our current national vaccination rollout," Premier Dennis King said in a statement late Friday afternoon.
"Our hearts go out to all Canadians who are dealing with the continuing difficulties of this pandemic," he added, saying the outbreaks "underscore the importance of getting all Canadians vaccinated as soon as possible."
King said earlier in the week that he would be willing to offer testing help to neighbouring New Brunswick, which now has more than 140 active cases due in part to a stubborn outbreak in the Edmundston zone near the Quebec border.
"No province has been immune," he wrote. "Earlier today, we hear[d of] the first hospitalization of a COVID-19 positive patient in our province. This is a stark reminder of the precarious situation we find ourselves in and it requires us to continue to be vigilant in our fight against the virus."
Earlier on Friday, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) issued a call for "unprecedented" measures to address rising COVID-19 numbers in provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia.
"The CMA is recommending deployment of resources where they are most needed to save the most lives," the group representing Canada's doctors said in a statement. Specifically, it urged the federal government to change vaccine distribution, away from the system whereby provinces get doses based on their population.
"We're happy to continue to work with the provinces on adjusting as the provinces see necessary," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later told a news conference.
Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin was among those who spoke out to oppose any redistribution of doses.
"Things can change very quickly in this province," Rankin said. "We're working really hard to prevent a third wave, but we need to make sure that the vaccine rollout and the way that we structured it remains on track."
Said he would be 'open' to conversation
On March 7, King told CBC's Rosemary Barton that he would be "open to any conversation" about the province sending some of its COVID-19 vaccine supply to harder-hit areas.
That was before New Brunswick's cases started to rise steadily, with many of them turning out to involve variants of concern, which are much more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain.
King later clarified in the legislature that the province had not been asked to give up any of its allocated COVID-19 dose.
"Since the beginning of this pandemic, Islanders have done their part to make this country safer," he said in his statement Friday. "They have followed public health protocols, they have taken the advice of public health officials to heart and they have lined up to get vaccinated. Islanders will continue to do their part in the best interests of the safety of all Canadians."