Nova Scotia stops giving AstraZeneca as first dose; reports 149 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia has decided to stop giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as the first dose effective immediately.
"The decision to pause the use of AstraZeneca is based on science and the increased availability of mRNA vaccines," Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said during a news conference in Halifax on Wednesday afternoon.
In a news release, the province noted that there was "an observed increase in the rare blood-clotting condition linked to this vaccine."
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, in other provinces. Strang said that there have been no cases of this in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says it's difficult to balance pausing a vaccine with the desire to get the population immunized as quickly as possible, but people in Nova Scotia are showing their clear preference.
"Nova Scotians are deciding on their own to choose mRNA vaccine before AstraZeneca since we dropped the age eligibility," Rankin said. "More and more are cancelling their appointment (for AstraZeneca)."
Rankin said health officials have told him that more than 1,000 appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine have been cancelled.
Strang said anybody who is already booked to get AstraZeneca will receive an email cancelling that appointment and asking them to book a new appointment for either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
"As we move these bookings to Pfizer and Moderna, I ask you to be patient," Strang said. "You will get vaccinated soon."
A decision on using AstraZeneca as a second dose will be made when more information becomes available from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
"There is a global study underway to determine if an individual who took their first dose of AstraZeneca can mix their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna," Rankin said. "That is an important piece of science that we are awaiting and until that study is complete, we are putting a pause on the Astra Zeneca vaccine."
N.S. ANNOUNCES 149 NEW CASES OF COVID-19
Nova Scotia health officials reported 149 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the province's total number of active cases to 1,621.
"Some of these cases are still from the backlog," Rankin said.
In a news release, N.S. health officials say 116 of Wednesday's new cases are located in the province's Central zone.
Eleven new cases were identified in the Eastern zone, 13 new cases are being reported in the Western zone, and nine new cases in the Northern zone.
Public health says they have cleared the backlog of positive cases, with all cases now contacted and entered into the province's data system. Public health has resumed contacting new positive cases after receiving lab confirmation.
The province is no longer including an "exposure category" (travel, close contact, etc.), citing increased investigations.
Health officials say there is evidence of community spread in Nova Scotia's Central zone.
Public Health says the province’s other zones, Eastern, Northern, and Western, are being monitored for signs of community spread.
119 of Nova Scotia's previously reported cases are now considered resolved, with the total number of active infections rising to 1,621.
CONFIRMED CASES AT DARTMOUTH CALL CENTRE
The president of Nova Scotia's largest union is sounding the alarm on what he's calling an outbreak of COVID-19 at an 811 call centre in Dartmouth, N.S.
Jason Maclean is the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU). He questions if proper protocols were in place at the call centre, named Emergency Medical Care Inc., and says he has submitted a complaint with the Department of Labour.
"We have 11 members that have tested positive and some of their family members as well," said Maclean.
Maclean says he would like to see employees have the option to work from home.
"What you need is the proper protocols in place and for no one to be in that office until they do a deep cleaning and investigation by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education," Maclean explained. "It's very important that people are safe going to work."
In an email to CTV News, Dana Fidgen, the senior manager for Telehealth and Health and Wellness, confirmed there has been positive COVID-19 cases at one of the three 811 Telecare call centres. She says employees are being supported and affected areas in the building have been deep cleaned.
"Upon being notified of these cases, we immediately launched an investigation in coordination with Public Health," wrote Fidgen in an email. "We have resources and supports in place to help all those affected. The safety of our employees, patients, and the communities we serve is our top priority."
N.S. COVID-19 CASE DATA
Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 7,289 COVID-19 tests on Tuesday. Officials have completed a total of 693,382 tests since the pandemic began.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 4,301 COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 2,609 cases have recovered and 71 people have died due to COVID-19.
There are currently 73 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 14 of whom are in intensive care.
Since April 1, there have been 2,559 positive COVID-19 cases and five deaths. Of the cases since April 1, 933 are now considered resolved.
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: 215 cases (63 active cases)
- Central Zone: 3,563 cases (1,367 active cases)
- Northern Zone: 211 cases (57 active cases)
- Eastern Zone: 312 cases (134 active cases)
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to May 16, 2021.
Nova Scotia's COVID-19 online dashboard provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.
As of Wednesday, 387,683 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Of those, 38,152 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.
As of Tuesday, Nova Scotia has received a total of 466,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec. 15.
The province is encouraging all Nova Scotians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible.
COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be made online or by phone at 1-833-797-7772. Appointments cannot be booked directly through a community clinic, pharmacy or physician. Walk-ins will be turned away.
CHANGES TO ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING STRATEGY
In order to address the test result backlog, Nova Scotia is shifting their COVID-19 asymptomatic testing strategy.
In the interim, most Nova Scotians are encouraged to use pop-up testing sites instead of booking a COVID-19 lab test over the next few days.
Individuals under the following categories are still encouraged to book lab tests:
- anyone with symptoms
- anyone who has been notified that they are a close contact of a known case
- anyone who has been at an exposure location
- anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador
Public health says anyone who does not meet the above criteria and has already booked an appointment should cancel it following the instructions provided in their confirmation email.
The province says they are making an effort to increase rapid testing capacity around the province.
Pop-up testing locations being provided on Wednesday, include:
- Alderney Gate Public Library (60 Alderney Dr., Dartmouth) - from noon to 7 p.m
- Bridgewater Cineplex (349 Lahave St.) - from 2 to 7 p.m.
- Canada Games Centre (26 Thomas Raddall Dr.) - from noon to 7 p.m.
- Central Spryfield Elementary School (364 Herring Cove Rd.) - from noon to 7 p.m
- Centre 200 (481 George St., Sydney) - from 3 to 7 p.m.
- Halifax Central Library (5440 Spring Garden Rd.) - from noon to 7 p.m.
- Halifax Convention Centre (Argyle Street entrance, 1650 Argyle St.) - from noon to 7 p.m.
- John Martin School (7 Brule St., Dartmouth) - from noon to 7 p.m.
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