'Milestone in the battle': COVID-19 vaccine arrives in N.S. as province reports 6 new cases
HALIFAX -- The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have officially arrived in Nova Scotia.
The province received its first allotment of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Tuesday.
"This is a milestone in the battle against the virus," said Premier Stephen McNeil in a news release. "As the supply increases, every Nova Scotian will have access to the vaccine. But this will take many months, and I ask everyone to be patient in the meantime as the vaccine rollout begins with front-line health-care workers and the most vulnerable."
Nova Scotia Public Health is set to hold the province's first immunization clinic at Dalhousie University in Halifax from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Front-line health-care workers will be among the first Nova Scotians to receive the vaccine.
"We plan to vaccinate approximately 350 people in that group," said Gary O'Toole, the senior director of population and public health for the Nova Scotia Health Authority. "Of course, that will depend on uptake and how many people wish to have the vaccine."
The vaccines are being stored at Dalhousie University due to strict transportation, handling and storage requirements. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine must be kept at -70 C in a special ultra-low temperature freezer.
"What the manufacturer has given us suggests that the vaccine can be brought to room temperature for up to six hours before somebody receives the shot, but not longer than that," explained Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, Nova Scotia's deputy chief medical officer of health, during a news conference on Tuesday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said the province participated in exercises last week to refine its approach to handling, storing and managing the supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
"These exercises helped to prepare us for the first delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine," he said in a news release.
People who work in the following areas will receive the vaccine this month:
- COVID-19 units in hospitals
- emergency departments
- critical care units
- birth unit and early labour unit at the IWK Health Centre
- regional care units
Long-term care staff directly involved in patient care, including designated caregivers, in the Central Zone will receive the vaccine in December.
The Pfizer vaccine is administered in two doses. The province plans to administer half of the first batch to just under 1,000 people. Twenty-one days later, those same people will receive a second dose.
"I think our approach here is, quite frankly, a conservative one," said Watson-Creed. "We want to make sure that people are immunized fully when they get immunized and it is in keeping with the direction that the manufacturer has suggested, so for the time being, that's what we'll be doing."
All other long-term care staff, including designated caregivers, across the province will receive the vaccine between January and March.
"We must use the limited vaccine we receive where it will have the biggest impact in our health-care system and in our communities," said Strang. "As vaccine supply increases in the spring and summer months, we will be able to gradually expand who gets the vaccine and where."
Doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are also expected to arrive in Nova Scotia this month. They must be stored at a temperature of -20 C.
The provincial government says Nova Scotia will continue to receive small weekly shipments of COVID-19 vaccine until the end of the March, when the supply is expected to increase. The province expects to receive 150,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of March.
Between now and March, the immunization effort will focus on:
- front-line health-care workers closely involved in the COVID-19 response
- long-term care residents and staff
- older Nova Scotians, starting with those 80 and older, then 75 and older, then 70 and older.
SIX NEW COVID-19 CASES
Nova Scotia reported six new cases of COVID-19 in three zones on Tuesday.
Three cases are in the Central Zone, two cases are in the Northern Zone and the sixth case is in the Western Zone. All of the province’s new cases are close contacts of previously reported cases.
With six previously identified cases now considered resolved, the number of active cases remains at 57.
Nova Scotia’s daily new COVID-19 cases have been in the single digits since Dec. 5.
Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 1,612 Nova Scotia tests on Monday.
Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has conducted 89,419 tests and confirmed 337 positive COVID-19 cases. Of those, 280 cases are considered resolved, leaving 57 active cases. No one has died during the second wave. There is no one in hospital due to COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, Nova Scotia has completed 212,590 tests, and reported a total of 1,426 cases of COVID-19. Of those, 1,304 cases are now considered resolved and 65 people have died as a result of the novel coronavirus.
The province's confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.
Fifty-six per cent of cases are female and 44 per cent are male.
There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.
The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.
- Western Zone: 78 cases
- Central Zone: 1,192 cases
- Northern Zone: 92 cases
- Eastern Zone: 64 cases
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Dec. 27.
COVID ALERT APP
Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.
The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
LIST OF SYMPTOMS
Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose/nasal congestion
SELF-ISOLATION AND MANDATORY MASKS
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.
Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region for non-essential reasons is required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form before coming to the province. Travellers must self-isolate alone, away from others. If they cannot self-isolate alone, their entire household must also self-isolate for 14 days.
Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must be prepared to provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.
Visitors from outside the Atlantic region who have already self-isolated in another Atlantic province for 14 days may travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate again.
It is mandatory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces in Nova Scotia.