Atlantic health officials welcome news the Moderna vaccine is approved in Canada

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FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health welcome news on Wednesday that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in Canada, saying it provides a ray of hope.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said she expected 2,400 doses of the vaccine from the U.S. biotech firm to arrive in the province next week, adding that they will be given to residents of long-term care homes.

She said the frequency and size of vaccine shipments should increase in the coming months, but cautioned that people still need to follow public health rules. "Yes it's great to have hope and this light at the end of the tunnel, but before we actually reach it, we do have a lot of work to do," she told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Health Canada declared the new inoculation from Moderna safe for use. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will receive more doses next month of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than previously expected. Therefore, he said, Canada should have at least 1.2 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna delivered by Jan. 31.

Health officials in Prince Edward Island said Wednesday they expected to get their first shipment of the Moderna vaccine before the end of the month. They said they were uncertain, however, how much they will get, adding that the doses will be designated for residents of long-term care facilities.

Newfoundland and Labrador said Wednesday it expected to receive 2,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week and an additional 2,400 doses during the week of Jan. 11. Those doses are destined for residents in Labrador’s remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

Premier Andrew Furey said the approval of the Moderna vaccine marked a huge day for his province. "Following the arrival of the first doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine last week and today’s announcement on Moderna, we can look forward with hope and optimism," Furey said in a statement.

"We will continue to work with our federal partners and build on the progress we’ve made thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic."

A spokeswoman with Nova Scotia's Health Department confirmed Wednesday that the province is scheduled to receive a shipment of 3,700 doses of Moderna vaccine by the end of December. "Planning is underway on how and where this vaccine will be distributed," Marla MacInnis said in an email. "More information will be available in January."

On Monday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said the Moderna vaccine will be distributed to staff and resident of long-term care facilities in the new year. He said that unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70 C, the Moderna vaccine is more conventional and can be more easily distributed.

Nova Scotia reported four new COVID-19 infections Wednesday and said the province had 35 active cases. New Brunswick reported five new cases of COVID-19 and said it had 46 active infections, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case and 23 active infections. Prince Edward Island did not report any new cases Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2020.

— With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax and Sarah Smellie in St. John's.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press