Strang says Nova Scotia's COVID-19 vaccine supply is 'fragile'

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Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said planning the COVID-19 vaccine rollout beyond two-week blocks is challenging because the vaccine supply is "fragile" and "ultimately out of our control."

Strang made the comments Tuesday at a COVID-19 briefing where he outlined a three-month plan for prioritizing vaccinations amid supply constraints. The province also announced two more exposures in Halifax.

"We are focusing on delivering vaccine to health-care workers who are directly involved in the front-line COVID response, as well as staff, residents and designated caregivers in long-term care and residential care facilities," he said.

Strang said the province's vaccination plan was driven by "science and risk." Noting that 90 per cent of COVID-19 deaths are people over 80 years old, he said age is by far the biggest risk factor.

Strang said clinics for health-care workers are being run in Halifax, Cape Breton, Kentville and Truro this week.

Beginning Thursday, he said an additional seven long-term care facilities across the province will have vaccines to start their immunization programs.

1 new COVID case

On Tuesday, the province reported one new case of COVID-19 and a total of 11 active cases. No one is in hospital because of the coronavirus.

The new case is in the central health zone and is related to travel outside the region. The person is self-isolating.

Strang warned Nova Scotians to avoid being complacent. "We are still in the middle of the second wave," he said. "There is the emergence of warring new variant strains, and our vaccine supply remains uncertain." He urged people to remain cautious and to avoid travel outside of the region because it "greatly increases the risk of bringing COVID-19 and COVID-19 variants back into Nova Scotia."

Jon Cherry/Getty Images
Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Strang said a number of prototype clinics are being planned for phase 1 of the vaccine rollout. The experience will guide the second phase, when a larger supply of vaccines is available.

He said a prototype clinic will be set up at the IWK hospital in mid-to-late February. What officials learn there will be applied elsewhere once larger quantities of vaccines are available.

Strang said consultations are underway with stakeholders to set up clinics for priority groups such as Indigenous elders and Black Nova Scotians.

Jonas Roosens/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images
Jonas Roosens/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images

The continued distribution of the vaccine hit a snag on Jan. 19 when the province announced that there would be no new shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Canada as the biotech company paused production in Belgium to increase long-term capacity.

On Monday, the province reported that 11,083 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered, and 2,708 Nova Scotians have received their second doses.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the province is continuing to reserve second doses of COVID-19 vaccine until a continuous supply can be guaranteed.

Some restrictions eased this week

Some restrictions on sports, arts and culture were eased on Monday.

Sports teams will be able to play games, but with restricted travel and no spectators, and there can be no games or tournaments involving teams that would not regularly play against each other. Art and theatre performances can take place without an audience.

The Halifax Mooseheads and Cape Breton Eagles will be starting league play later this week, but with no fans in attendance because of provincial public health rules.

The province will also allow residents of adult service centres and regional rehabilitation centres to start volunteering and working in the community again.

Returning students urged to get tested

Post-secondary students returning to Nova Scotia from anywhere except Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador are being encouraged to book a COVID-19 test appointment.

The test should be booked for the sixth, seventh or eighth day of their 14-day self-isolation period. Testing appointments can be booked up to three days in advance.

Atlantic Canada case numbers

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