Nova Scotia to expand eligibility for COVID-19 booster shot by end of month

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Premier Tim Houston, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang are shown in September. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Premier Tim Houston, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang are shown in September. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

Nova Scotia will begin offering booster shots to selected groups of people by the end of the month.

Those who will be eligible include:

  • anyone who is 80 or older, followed by those 70 to 79.

  • adult front-line health-care workers who were double-vaccinated with an interval of less than 28 days between doses.

  • people who received two doses of the Vaxzevria (from Oxford-AstraZeneca) vaccine or one dose of Janssen vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said eligible health-care workers will receive first priority, then those 80 and up, followed by those in their 70s.

People will not be eligible for a booster until six months have passed since their second dose.

The province is also following the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which advises people to wait eight weeks between first and second doses for optimal protection. Nova Scotians can schedule their second dose as early as 28 days after the first dose, but are advised to wait for eight weeks.

Nova Scotia has already begun offering booster doses to people who are immunocompromised and those living in long-term care.

People who work in certain professions or sectors such as education and health care, the civil service and corrections and child care are subject to a mandatory vaccination policy, and those who have not started their COVID-19 vaccine program by Nov. 30 will be placed on administrative leave starting Dec. 1. The province released initial employee vaccination numbers Friday.

Vaccines for kids aged five to 11

Strang said if Health Canada approves a vaccine for kids aged five to 11 — which is expected to happen by the end of November — he anticipates doses will begin to be administered in early December.

There are about 65,000 children in that age group in the province.

The vaccines will be delivered to kids through pharmacies.

40 new cases announced Friday

Nova Scotia reported 40 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. On Thursday, 50 new cases were reported.

Twenty-one of the new cases reported Friday are in the central zone, 11 are in the western zone and eight are in the northern zone.

Nine people are in hospital, including one who is in intensive care.

As of Friday's update, 78.9 per cent of Nova Scotians had been double-vaccinated.

Outbreaks linked to religious gatherings

Strang said the increase in cases in the northern and western zones is related to a gathering of faith groups at a multi-day event, and that there is spread within the participating faith groups. He said so far, there are not signs of spread within the broader community due to the faith gathering.

In an advisory issued Friday evening, Nova Scotia Health warned about community spread in Amherst and Cumberland County as a result of clusters of cases in the area.

It is advising people to stay home if sick and to take a PCR test.

The following places offer COVID-19 PCR testing in the area:

  • Amherst COVID-19 Testing Centre at 34 Prince Arthur Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Appointments recommended, limited drop-ins available.

  • New Glasgow COVID-19 Testing Centre at 678 East River Road, New Glasgow, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

  • Truro COVID-19 Testing Centre (Rath Eastlink Community Centre, Seniors' Clinic Entrance, at 524 Abenaki Road, Truro, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

Nova Scotia Health said anyone who hasn't been exposed or hasn't shown symptoms can get a rapid test at Maggie's Place at11 Elmwood Drive in Amherest this weekend from noon to 6 p.m.

Another cluster of cases in the central zone is related to a separate faith gathering and largely involves children who were too young to be vaccinated.

"Public Health is watching this very carefully and I am optimistic that, as before, that our overall high vaccination coverage rates will limit any spread into broader community," Strang said.

He said he will be sending out a letter to religious communities today clarifying the rules about gathering.

CBC
CBC

Asked whether the organizers of the gathering will be fined, Strang said: "I'm more focused on moving forward and dealing with these communities in a constructive, positive way to control the outbreak than to focus on what has happened and whether they should be penalized for that or not."

Strang said there are several reasons why people in religious communities may choose not to be vaccinated.

"Some of it is rooted in lack of trust, some of it is rooted in misinformation, some religious communities have firm beliefs that … from a biblical perspective they shouldn't be vaccinated. I'm not going to argue with them about that. I have a very different perspective."

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