N.B. revises COVID-19 vaccine strategy; confirms fifth case of U.K. variant
HALIFAX -- New Brunswick health officials announced changes to their COVID-19 vaccination rollout strategy; including holding back the second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for some individuals who are at lower risk.
"We have moved as quickly as we could with our campaign rollout given the uncertainty and certain availability of vaccines, but it has not been fast enough," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health. "We must get the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of more new Brunswickers and we have to do it quickly."
Russel says the province made the decision after learning a single dose is effective, and offers more than 90 per cent protection starting 14 days after the shot.
"The recommended practice is to administer the second dose within 28 days. Some Canadian jurisdictions are now waiting for 42 days or more, but I should note that some countries are waiting up to 90 days between doses, including the United Kingdom, which has a significant amount of its people now vaccinated," said Russell.
Russell says the province still plans to have second doses administered as soon as possible and certainly within 90 days. She says the change is part of New Brunswick's goal to maximize the number of vulnerable people receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The plan to hold back second doses for some will reduce hospitalizations and keep healthcare workers and facilities “from being overwhelmed,” according to Russell.
PHASES TO VACCINE ROLLOUT PLAN
The vaccine rollout plan in New Brunswick, which began in December 2020, focused on immunizing the most vulnerable residents, including long-term care residents and staff, frontline health-care staff, First Nations adults, and individuals aged 85 and older.
Phase 2 of the province's vaccine rollout strategy begins in April and will prioritize younger adults with select complex medical conditions, first responders such as firefighters and police, and workers who regularly cross the border for work.
Other groups being prioritized during Phase 2 include:
- residents and staff in other communal settings
- health-care workers providing direct patient care such as pharmacists and dentists
- first responders such as firefighters and police officers
- home support workers for seniors
- individuals 70 and over
- volunteers at long-term care centres and designated support people
- individuals 40 and over with three or more select chronic conditions
“We are confident this plan is the best way to ensure vulnerable residents are protected in a timely manner, while also addressing delays in vaccine shipments,” said Shephard. “If more vaccine doses are made available to us by the federal government, we will readjust our vaccination plan.”
In June, when Phase 3 starts, it will expand to groups including:
- health-care workers with indirect patient care
- people with two or more select chronic health conditions
- school staff
- students between the ages of 16 and 24
In Phase 4, which is expected to begin in July, the vaccine will be more widely available for all New Brunswickers.
The province says more details will be shared in the coming weeks about how people in the identified groups can register to receive the vaccine.
ALL ZONES BACK TO ORANGE PHASE
On Thursday, New Brunswick’s Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced the Edmundston region (Zone 4) will be returning to the orange phase effective midnight on Thursday. With the change, it means all zones in New Brunswick will be back at the orange level.
"I know the last several weeks have been very difficult for those living in Zone 4," said Shephard. "I want to thank everyone in this region for following the rules and doing their part to move from lockdown, to the red level, and now to the orange level so quickly."
"I am pleased that tomorrow the entire province will be Orange, which means many businesses can open with their operational plans in place, and we can all spend time with our steady 10 contacts," said Shephard.
FIFTH U.K. VARIANT CASE CONFIRMED
During a news conference on Thursday, Shephard said a previously suspected variant case in the province has been confirmed as positive. With the new case, New Brunswick now has five confirmed U.K. variant cases.
Shephard did not confirm any more details about the latest confirmed variant case, including what zone it was in.
FOUR NEW COVID-19 CASES
Health officials in New Brunswick reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
All four cases are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), and involves:
- an individual 19 and under
- two people in their 60s
- an individual in their 80s
Eleven of New Brunswick's previously reported cases are now considered resolved, dropping the provinces active cases to 111.
NEW BRUNSWICK COVID-19 DATA
New Brunswick has had 1,411 cumulative confirmed cases since the pandemic began. In total, 1,275 people have recovered, and 24 people have died in the province from COVID-19.
Five people are in hospital with COVID-19, with one in the intensive care unit.
New Brunswick completed 1,002 tests on Wednesday, and has completed 220,912 COVID-19 tests since the start of the pandemic.
The number of cases are broken down by New Brunswick’s seven health zones:
- Zone 1 – Moncton region: 332 confirmed cases (8 active cases)
- Zone 2 – Saint John region: 222 confirmed cases (4 active cases)
- Zone 3 – Fredericton region: 238 confirmed cases (3 active cases)
- Zone 4 – Edmundston region: 402 confirmed cases (93 active cases)
- Zone 5 – Campbellton region: 182 confirmed cases (no active cases)
- Zone 6 – Bathurst region: 27 confirmed cases (3 active cases)
- Zone 7 – Miramichi region: 8 confirmed cases (no active cases)
UPDATE ON VACCINES
New Brunswick's COVID-19 online dashboard now provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.
As of Tuesday, 21,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far, with 7,505 people in New Brunswick having received a second dose.
The province has received a total of 26,825 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and are holding 5,643 in reserve for second doses and planned clinics.
VEHICLE TRAFFIC INFORMATION
New Brunswick's online dashboard includes information about vehicle traffic attempting to enter the province.
On Wednesday, 1,449 personal and 1,488 commercial vehicles attempted to cross the border into the province.
Of the vehicles attempting to cross the border, 20 were refused entry, for a refusal rate of 0.7 per cent.