Cape Breton vaccinations beating provincial rate, health official says

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Cape Breton vaccinations beating provincial rate, health official says
Tracey Barbrick is the associate deputy health minister in charge of Nova Scotia's vaccine rollout. The province opened vaccination eligibility to those aged 12 and up on Thursday. (CBC - image credit)
Tracey Barbrick is the associate deputy health minister in charge of Nova Scotia's vaccine rollout. The province opened vaccination eligibility to those aged 12 and up on Thursday. (CBC - image credit)

The vaccination rate in Cape Breton is better than the provincial average, contrary to what Nova Scotia's deputy health minister told Cape Breton regional councillors this week.

Dr. Kevin Orrell told CBRM council Wednesday that younger people are not getting tested as much on the island as they are elsewhere in Nova Scotia, and that vaccine uptake has been lower in Cape Breton "than almost all other parts of the province."

Tracey Barbrick, associate deputy health minister in charge of vaccine rollout, said Orrell's information was accurate a few weeks ago.

"We did have a week where we were saying, 'Uh-oh, what's happening in Cape Breton? Are we getting into an age group where we're going to start to find some hesitancy?'" she said in an interview on Thursday.

Tracey Barbrick is the associate deputy health minister in charge of Nova Scotia's vaccine rollout. The province opened vaccination eligibility to those aged 12 and up on Thursday.
Tracey Barbrick is the associate deputy health minister in charge of Nova Scotia's vaccine rollout. The province opened vaccination eligibility to those aged 12 and up on Thursday.(CBC)

However, Barbrick said the picture has changed since then. Overall, 51.4 per cent of Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of vaccine, while in Cape Breton, that number is 61.2 per cent.

"Booking rates are looking really good right down through the younger ages, and it looks like Cape Breton is coming for vaccines," she said.

Vaccine appointments tracked daily

Health officials monitor vaccine appointments around the province daily to determine where and when an advertising campaign might be needed.

Barbrick said the lag in bookings may have been a result of the transition between age groups, because Cape Breton has more older residents and there was plenty of vaccine available for them.

"Once you get out of the baby boomers, your numbers start to get a little bit smaller, so I think what we had in Cape Breton was a combination of the demographic was changing and maybe a little bit of an oversupply of vaccine in the area," she said.

The province opened up appointments for people aged 20 to 24 on Tuesday, and already 47 per cent of that demographic in Cape Breton has received a shot or booked an appointment.

Barbrick said the 70 to 74 age cohort in Cape Breton is 100 per cent vaccinated.

Orrell told CBRM council that some expiring vaccine doses were sent back to the central zone from Cape Breton, but Barbrick said that's not the case. She said fewer doses were distributed to the island when uptake numbers were lower.
Orrell told CBRM council that some expiring vaccine doses were sent back to the central zone from Cape Breton, but Barbrick said that's not the case. She said fewer doses were distributed to the island when uptake numbers were lower. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

"That's pretty amazing and the others are way up there," she said.

Orrell also told CBRM council that some vaccine nearing its expiry date was sent back to the central health zone from Cape Breton to avoid wastage, but Barbrick said that was also incorrect.

No doses sent back, says Barbrick

She said when there was concern about vaccine hesitancy on the island a couple of weeks ago, fewer doses were sent to Cape Breton and more were allocated to the central zone.

"So with our goal always of using every single dose of vaccine, getting it in arms as quickly as we could, it was just that a little bit was reallocated from a future shipment," Barbrick said.

She said there's still lots of vaccine available around the island.

Barbrick said people tend to book appointments closer to home, but people checking online may find a lot of open vaccine slots at the Cape Breton University site.

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