Health minister promises to share full vaccine plan Friday

·3 min read
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard promised more vaccine rollout details Friday. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard promised more vaccine rollout details Friday. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)

New Brunswick's Health Minister Dorothy Shephard defended the province's vaccine rollout strategy and promised more details will be shared Friday.

In this week's political panel, Shephard said many questions will be answered Friday afternoon. Opposition parties have been criticizing the Higgs government for not sharing as many rollout details as other provinces.

"We have requested a plan back in November, a concrete and specific plan about the vaccination rollout," said Liberal Jean-Claude D'Amours during the panel.

"It was very difficult to get details from the government."

Shephard said people should be expecting "good news." The government previously said every New Brunswicker will have at least one dose by June or the beginning of July.

"I believe that people are going to start to see that there is hope and there is a pathway to green," Shephard said.

She said the province has 218 pharmacies confirmed to give out vaccines. New Brunswick's vaccination rate is close to the bottom of the pack, with only two provinces lower than New Brunswick.

Shephard said the province decided to stick with the priority groups of long-term care facilities. She said all nursing home and all adult residential facility residents and staff are going to have at least one dose "by next week."

She said all First Nation communities are going to be vaccinated by March 19.

"That's why we didn't go to the mass population yet," she said. "That's going to be beginning and that rollout plan will happen [Friday]"

Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours says the province should be using up every dose instead of sticking to a rigid age-based rollout.
Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours says the province should be using up every dose instead of sticking to a rigid age-based rollout.(CBC)

New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. D'Amours said all of these doses should be used up instead of close to 30 per cent of them sitting in storage.

Shephard responded: "It wasn't about hoarding, it was about a clear strategy to get our vulnerable population done."

The government previously said it held back vaccine for second doses, but recently announced second doses will now be delayed to maximize first doses.

'The last thing we could claim to have is perfection'

All party representatives thanked New Brunswickers for their efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Green Party Leader David Coon said New Brunswick weathered the pandemic better than most other jurisdictions.

"That's required a lot of sacrifice on the part of our citizens in this province," he said.

However, on the communication side, he said "the Higgs government hasn't scored very well." This includes communicating details of the vaccine rollout.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin agreed with this assessment, but said he won't "overly criticize" the government because parties have been working together in an all-party cabinet committee on COVID-19. He said the committee binds leaders to confidentiality.

Shephard said she is privy to a lot of research and information about the best age groups to vaccinate, but limited vaccine supplies made things more complicated and plans were changing quickly.

"I don't feel I conveyed that very well in the public," she said.

Shephard said she's not rejecting all criticism of the province's communication strategy.

"This has been a roller coaster for everybody, but we have tried to be as factual as we can on any given day," she said. "I will fully admit that the last thing we could claim to have is perfection."