Nova Scotia expands age group for those eligible for AstraZeneca vaccine
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's COVID-19 vaccination program expanded for those eligible to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine to include people 60 to 62 years of age.
Booking opened March 16 for those age 63 and 64 at one of 25 pharmacies and doctors' offices that are offering the AstraZeneca vaccine.
By mid-afternoon Thursday, AstraZeneca clinics in Halifax Regional Municipality were fully booked, but about 4,900 appointments are available in remaining clinics across the province.
Hilary Newton is still waiting her turn but said she would get the AstraZeneca vaccine if given the option.
"The AstraZeneca that's in Europe that might have caused the blood clots is a different batch than what we have in Canada. You have to trust science," she said.
Others didn't want it.
"I'm 80 years old and I have an appointment for next Monday to get a vaccine and I'm hoping it's not that one," said Jack Chiulla.
More than a dozen European countries had suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine over reports of blood clots but on Thursday, the European Union's drug regulator declared it as safe.
Canada, whose AstraZeneca vaccine had been coming from India and not Europe, had never stopped dolling it out.
The company and Canadian regulators, however, continue to say the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe. Canada's immunization advisory committee on Tuesday adjusted its guidance to say the vaccine is also safe and effective for people over the age of 65.
Of the nearly 30,000 Nova Scotians aged 63 or 64 years old who could have booked an AstraZeneca vaccine before it was opened up to 60-to-62 year olds, only 8,100 did.
Premier Iain Rankin said 13,000 more AstraZeneca vaccines are on the way, but the province will still plan to reserve those vaccines for people under 64.
"At this juncture, we'll continue with the plan to use the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for over 65," Rankin said.
The President of NSGEU said its hospital workers and staff have been patiently waiting to get the vaccine, but some are also exhausted and frustrated.
"They're seeing other people getting vaccinated and wondering why they aren't being vaccinated because they're the ones that are working with the public," said Jason MacLean, NSGEU President. "They're the ones that are working with people in long-term care facilities and they're the ones in the field in home care."
Brendan Elliott, spokesperson with Nova Scotia Health Authority said tracking down through health care worker clinics includes long-term care staff, designated caregivers, and a host of other priority groups – some of whom are health care workers in the community.
"As a result, we don't have current numbers for Nova Scotia Health staff specifically, but I can say that over 35,000 people have been immunized via the health care worker clinics across the province to date," Elliott said.
"Age remains the single most important risk factor in serious health outcomes, which is why we have adopted vaccine eligibility based on age."
The president of Nova Scotia's Nurses' Union said most of its members have been vaccinated or will be immunized soon. Janet Hazelton has been working at community clinics to administer shots to others.
"Certainly everyone that's in the immunization clinics are working hard to get people immunized, they're trying to get people to their appointments and it's going to happen," Hazelton said.
With files from The Canadian Press.