Moderna vaccine to arrive before New Year's Day, Haggie says, as N.L. reports 1 new COVID-19 case

·4 min read
N.W.T. Department of Health and Social Services
N.W.T. Department of Health and Social Services

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 Tuesday, as the province awaits the arrival of the Moderna vaccine in the province, shipments of which have now reached some of the farthest corners of Canada.

Health Minister John Haggie told CBC News the shipment is expected sometime before Thursday, with another expected the week of Jan. 11 for a total of 2,400 doses of the vaccination.

"We'll get enough to vaccinate 2,400 individuals over the course of the deliveries. They will be delivered directly to Goose Bay, and they will be distributed from there," Haggie said on Tuesday.

"The vaccination committee, in line with national advisory committee guidelines, have decided that the place to start is with the isolated fly-in, fly-out communities of the north coast of Labrador."

Those communities include Black Tickle, Norman's Bay, and north all the way to Nain to start, according to Haggie, adding the schedule is three or four weeks ahead of the timeline the province had planned for at the beginning of December.

He said the 2,400 doses is almost a match to the number of people — about 2,500 — living in those communities.

The Moderna vaccine arrived in Canada's territories on Monday, with Yukon and the Northwest Territories each receiving 7,200 doses. All three territories lack the infrastructure to house the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has to be stored at –70 C in special freezers.

That capability is also lacking in parts of N.L., and the provincial government has said the focus of its Moderna shipment will be vaccinating adults in Labrador's remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

However, the Moderna vaccine will also need two doses per person, much like the ongoing rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, said Haggie, and discussions are still ongoing for distribution to south coast Labrador communities.

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Haggie said there's no "hard and fast schedule" from Moderna beyond the two slated delivery dates, but 9,000 doses are expected in the first quarter of 2021.

As for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination, Haggie said the next shipment will be sent to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and other locations on the island that have the ultra-low freezers, used for storage, up and running.

"One of the challenges we have, particularly with the Pfizer vaccine at the moment, is they're not letting us move it around. Once it has arrived in, say, St. John's or Gander or wherever it stays at the vaccine depot there and is only thawed out on demand. So we're having to bring people to the vaccine," he said.

"That's not practical when you look at people, for example, who are in long-term care and who are subject to significant mobility issues. So we're going to work with Pfizer to find out when they're going to lift that and indeed how they're going to do it. ... That really hamstrings us once we get past the essential workers."

Tuesday's COVID-19 case

The new case reported on Tuesday is a man in the Eastern Health region in his 40s. According to a Department of Health media release the source of the infection is under investigation by public health officials, and an update will be provided when more information becomes available.

The province also had a new recovery in the Eastern Health region, stalling the active caseload at 19 and raising the total recoveries to 364 people since March.

One person remains in hospital due to the virus.

Jonathan Dupaul/CBC
Jonathan Dupaul/CBC

The health department also issued an advisory on Tuesday asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 8880 from Halifax to Deer Lake that arrived on Tuesday, Dec. 22 to call 811 to arrange COVID-19 testing.

The advisory is related to a case reported in the Western Health region on Sunday.

"Even if someone receives a negative test result, public health is encouraging all passengers to continue monitoring themselves for symptoms for a full 14 days from the time of their arrival in the province," the statement reads.

All of the province's active COVID-19 cases are on the island. So far, 71,974 people have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 170 in the last 24 hours.

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