PEI

Freezers loaned to P.E.I. government to store COVID-19 vaccine 

The owner of a tuna processing company in North Lake is helping with plans to vaccinate Islanders against COVID-19.

‘We thought, "Does the province have this kind of equipment and if not, would they like to borrow ours?"’ 

Crews work to move two lab-approved freezers that can reach –87 C from a tuna plant in North Lake to Charlottetown. (Jason Tompkins)

The owner of a tuna processing company in North Lake, P.E.I., is helping with plans to vaccinate Islanders against COVID-19.

Jason Tompkins, owner of One Tuna, is lending the province two lab-approved freezers that can reach –87 C.

His company uses the big freezers to store tuna.

But the province is now going to use them to hold the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which Health Canada approved on Wednesday.

It has to be kept under –60 C.

"When we saw this announcement come out, we thought, 'Does the province have this kind of equipment and if not, would they like to borrow ours?'" said Tompkins, who has been in the tuna business for 20 years. 

'I ended up sending an email'

"So I ended up sending an email to Dr. [Heather] Morrison's office just letting them know that if this vaccine was approved, and if it was something that would help out, to let us know." 

Jason Tompkins, owner of One Tuna, is lending the province the two lab-approved freezers. (CBC)

The province contacted Tompkins and went over the specifications, and it turned out these laboratory-grade freezers were a perfect match.

But getting the freezers to Charlottetown was another challenge.

The province sent crews out, but they wouldn't fit in the truck they had.

So, they had to bubble wrap the freezers and a transport truck picked them up. 

'It will certainly help us in the weeks ahead'

Premier Dennis King phoned to thank Tompkins.

Premier Dennis King says the freezer donation will speed up the rollout of the vaccine in the province. (CBC )

King said the freezer will speed up the rollout of the vaccine in the province.

"Without that storage capacity we wouldn't be able to do that to the extent we can, so I think it's played an important role here for the initial rollout and it will certainly help us in the weeks ahead," he said.

"It's just amazing that somebody in North Lake, P.E.I. — population of about 27 — would have these two, state-of-the-art freezers."

The province offered Tompkins money for the rental of the units, but he didn't want it.

'We're all kind of working together'

Tompkins said his tuna season runs from July until the end of November so the units were in storage until spring. He said loaning them out to the province won't impact his business. 

"It just didn't seem like the right thing to do," he said. 

Tompkins' company uses the freezers to store tuna. (Jason Tompkins)

Tompkins said he has two other big freezers he's offered to New Brunswick, where he's originally from, to store its vaccine.

"It's nice for people to see, I guess, that we're all kind of working together to stem the tide of this virus," he said.

Tompkins hasn't heard back on whether New Brunswick wants them.

On Thursday, Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said the government is going to get more details from the "kind gentleman" and factor that into its considerations.

"If we identify a need for it, we'll certainly be in direct communication with him about that very generous offer," he said.

More from CBC P.E.I.

 

About the Author

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Wayne.Thibodeau@CBC.ca

With files from CBC New Brunswick

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