SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- For more than four months now, pharmacists in New Brunswick have been going ‘flat out,’ administering nearly 450,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and counting.

“All of this, of course, is on top of the other work that they do,” says Jake Reid, executive director of New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association.

“Including giving out medications, and providing health services, so it’s been very, very busy for pharmacists.”

New Brunswick has now vaccinated more than 81 per cent of the eligible population with a first dose and more than 66 per cent have now received their second dose.

However, the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association says demand for COVID-19 vaccines is dropping and about 30 community pharmacies in the province have now opted-out of the vaccine program, with 179 now active.

“That’s certainly something we expected and not something anyone should be worried about,” says Reid. “There is a de-escalation happening right now as pharmacy staff take some time for themselves.”

A wind-down is also coming in the way Public Health reports its COVID-19 information. Once the province goes green – which is scheduled to happen on July 30 at 11:59 p.m. – news releases on cases and vaccination rates will no longer be routinely posted on weekdays.

“I think for me that’s where I get my information, in terms of case origin information,” says Halifax-based epidemiologist Kevin Wilson.

“Although I think if you wanted to, you could extrapolate that from the dashboard day-after-day, although I think it’s more work.”

However, there’s still some skepticism about the province’s plans to lift the mandatory order – including from infectious disease expert Dr. Lisa Barrett, who made her position on New Brunswick’s dropping of the mask mandate combined with the opening of borders.

“Do I think that doing the two before you reach your vaccine target is based in science? I don’t really think so.”