P.E.I. premier expects vaccine doses early in the new year

If all goes well Prince Edward Islanders could start being vaccinated against coronavirus early in 2021, says Premier Dennis King.

‘Wait and see and hope‘

'We can’t let our guard down,' says P.E.I. Premier Dennis King. (CBC)

If all goes well Prince Edward Islanders could start being vaccinated against coronavirus early in 2021, says Premier Dennis King.

But he cautioned while there are promising vaccines on the horizon, none of them have been approved yet.

"We're still in a wait and see and hope kind of attitude, but we are planning for that to be in the first quarter," King told CBC News, following a conference call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his fellow premiers Thursday evening.

"We're a small jurisdiction, so we will be able to get around and service Islanders probably more quickly than any other jurisdiction will."

The news comes during an anxious week in the region, one that saw the collapse of the Atlantic bubble — at least temporarily — as the number of COVID-19 cases grew in other parts of Atlantic Canada. P.E.I. also saw its first case of COVID-19 that was related to travel within the bubble.

"We're all anxious. I think that's a very normal feeling for everybody," said King.

"We've been living with this for nine months now. It's tiresome, it's frustrating, it's worrisome. It seems there's always way more questions than there are answers. The whole thing has just been taxing on us emotionally."

The continuing good news from vaccine trials does, however, make King feel like there is an end in sight.

"It does still seem like it's a piece away yet but I feel we're closer to the end of it than we are to the start of it, which is a nice feeling," he said.

The premiers and prime minister discussed the rollout of the vaccine on the call Thursday evening. King said the federal government will set the protocols for the order in which different groups of people will be offered the vaccine, with the most vulnerable and front-line workers being offered it first.

Restrictions on travel between P.E.I. and the other Atlantic provinces were put in place this week. (Carolyn Ryan/CBC)

The vaccine will be voluntary and free of charge.

In the meantime, King warned that the Island remains vulnerable as the second wave has a devastating impact in other parts of North America, and Atlantic Canada faces the risk of the pandemic getting out of control.

"We can't let our guard down," he said.

"That has been the worrisome part for me, from the beginning. These are the sleepless nights when you go home and try to turn this off. It's really, really hard."

Vaccines will go out to the provinces on a per capita basis.

King said the contracts for the supply of the vaccine are signed and there is no indication that those contracts will not be honoured. 

The premiers and prime minister have not yet discussed how the cost of the vaccination program might be shared, said King. The current focus is on getting the vaccine to Canadians, he said.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Wayne Thibodeau


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