Haggie sticks to June promise on vaccinating everyone

·3 min read

With AstraZeneca vaccine doses already being administered and promises of extra Pfizer/BioNTech shipments over the coming months, Health Minister Dr. John Haggie echoed his vow Friday that only supply disruption will prevent Newfoundland and Labrador from getting at least one dose into everyone who wants to be vaccinated by the end of June.

The target mirrors that promised by other provinces in Canada.

“The limiting factor here isn’t the process,” Haggie told reporters. “The limiting factor here is the delivery of vaccine.”

Premier Andrew Furey promised 80,000 shots in arms by the end of March, but the province is only a little over halfway there, at 48,000 doses.

Haggie said that’s entirely due to spotty supplies.

“The reason we can only do 6,000 shots, for example, in the last three or four days is that’s all we have had delivered,” he said. “We are working on the principle that Pfizer will live up to its obligation to the federal government, and the federal government will continue to give us our 1.4 per cent — which it has done, frankly, except for one occasion back in early February.

“We have a public health vaccination system that is not at all stretched by the load it has on it at the moment.”

Meanwhile, doses of theAstraZeneca vaccine — so far earmarked for first responders — started rolling out Tuesday.

Haggie said there was a week’s delay between arrival and administration because the health authorities were waiting on employers to provide lists. That process may change as other groups are identified going down the priority list.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Friday they have now added border services, search and rescue, sheriff’s officers, correctional officers and other enforcement groups who have had to work during all the alert levels.

The Pfizer vaccine is being reserved for other vulnerable groups, such as seniors and those with medical conditions.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine has allowed us to reach out to other groups perhaps a little faster than we would have been able to, which is really good,” Fitzgerald said.

“Obviously, we need to make sure that the people who are at high risk for severe disease are done as quickly as possible.”

While age is the most important factor, decisions are still being made as to the order of priorities under Phase 2, she said.

Meanwhile, Haggie replied to concerns expressed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) Friday that physicians not directly connected with Eastern Health facilities have been left out of the vaccination rollout.

“Why is it that all (regional health authorities) have decided to vaccinate community-based physicians, except Eastern Health?” NLMA president Dr. Lynette Powell asked in a news release. “This represents an inequity within the physician workforce that must be addressed. Community-based physicians in the eastern region deserve the same treatment as physicians in all other areas of the province.”

Haggie said physicians, like other health-care workers, are being vaccinated in order of their likelihood of exposure to COVID-19.

“So, we are aware, because of historical issues in Eastern Health, there is a small group of community physicians who really have very little connection directly with Eastern Health facilities and emergency services or emergency departments,” he said. “We will be reaching out to them as part of the Level 5 category … under Phase 2. So, I think that’s an issue that’s small in number, obviously one Eastern Health is aware of thanks to the NLMA.”

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram