New Brunswick announced one new case of COVID-19 in the Saint John region, Zone 2, on Tuesday and reminded the public of the province's new "Living with COVID-19" document, outlining ways health measures can be incorporated into daily life to help protect individuals, businesses, organizations and communities.
The province is set to lift all pandemic restrictions, including mandatory masks, gathering limits and provincial border checks for travellers within Canada, this Friday at 11:59 p.m., regardless of whether it meets its vaccination target to have 75 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated.
A total of 64.7 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 or older are now fully vaccinated, the COVID-19 dashboard shows, while 81.6 per cent have had at least one dose.
That's only up from 64.4 per cent and 81.5 per cent on Monday. Just 2,451 people rolled up their sleeves on Monday, 1,954 for their second dose and 497 for their first.
"When mandated restrictions are lifted under the province's COVID-19 recovery plan, the province will return to Green. It does not represent 'the end of the pandemic.' We will continue to encourage preventative public health measures," the Living with COVID-19 document states.
"Best practices of personal protective measures and health hygiene will not only help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but of many other respiratory illnesses such as the cold and influenza."
The 13-page page document, which is available online, covers topics such as vaccination, face coverings and physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, as well as healthy workplace policies and planning for safer travel.
"As we learn to live with COVID-19, some people will feel excited and eager to resume their pre-pandemic lifestyle. Others will feel stress, anxiety and worry," it states. "It will be important moving forward that we are supportive of each other's personal protective habits and risk tolerances."
No plan to offer 3rd dose for travel
The province was scheduled to hold a livestream question-and-answer session about COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., but ran into technical difficulties.
The session with Dr. Jennifer Russell and Daniel Landry, an infectious diseases pharmacist from Moncton's Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, was recorded instead and posted on the government's YouTube channel.
People were asked to submit their questions in advance via the government's Facebook page or Twitter account and many of them dealt with travel.
Russell said New Brunswick won't be following Quebec's lead and offering a third vaccine to people who want to travel to countries that don't recognize them as being fully vaccinated because of the type or combination of vaccines they received.
Instead, the province is waiting on the work the federal government is doing with the international community "to make sure that people who are fully vaccinated in ways that Canadians recognize as safe and effective are also recognized around the world," she said.
New Brunswick followed the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) in allowing the mixing of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines interchangeably, said Russell.
"At this time, there's no evidence suggesting that the third vaccine is required. We don't have efficacy data on it. We don't have safety data on it."
This is an exceptional measure. Each person must be properly guided to be informed of the potential risks associated with the additional dose, compared to the benefits of the planned trip. - Quebec government
The Quebec government is offering an extra dose of an mRNA vaccine to those who received two doses of AstraZeneca or a dose of AstraZeneca and a dose of either Pfizer or Moderna if the country they're travelling to doesn't recognize their vaccination status.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for example, has not yet authorized the use of AstraZeneca and many European countries don't recognize the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot made at the Serum Institute of India.
Several cruise lines also have said they won't accept customers who have received different types of vaccine, or mixed brands at all.
Quebec health officials warned Monday it's up to the recipient to weigh the risks before getting a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
"This is an exceptional measure. Each person must be properly guided to be informed of the potential risks associated with the additional dose, compared to the benefits of the planned trip. At this time, no study has assessed the impact of such an additional dose," the website states.
NACI's guidance was based on emerging research from Spain and the United Kingdom, which found that combining AstraZeneca with Pfizer doses was both safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, said Russell. Because Moderna and Pfizer are both mRNA vaccines, NACI also said that they could be used interchangeably, she said.
Vaccine interchangeability is not new, noted Landry. Public Health has switched between manufacturers, depending on vaccine supplies or as programs change, he said, citing influenza and hepatitis vaccines as examples.
He also pointed out non-essential international travel is not recommended at this time and encouraged New Brunswickers to "hang in there" for a "few" more weeks.
"The federal government is looking at this and we're hoping to get some kind of resolution where the mixed brand dosing would be recognized as fully vaccinated."
Boosters, vaccines for children
New Brunswick is also awaiting guidance from Health Canada and NACI regarding when booster doses will be needed, said Russell. She expects that some time in late fall or winter. People who are immune-compromised are expected to be among the priority group.
Asked about the status of work on developing vaccines for children under 12, Landry said there probably won't be any submissions to Health Canada until the fall.
"We don't anticipate to be vaccinating children until at least late fall or into the new year in 2022 at the earliest."
Until then, the best thing everyone can do to help protect children and other people who are unvaccinated is to get vaccinated themselves, especially with school soon to begin, said Russell.
"Widespread immunization in those eligible, including parents and school staff, will provide a layer of protection to those students not yet eligible for vaccination," she said, describing it as the "cocoon effect."
20 cases were fully vaccinated
Vaccines work, she said, citing statistics.
Of New Brunswick's 2,351 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of Monday, only 191 had an "effective" dose of a vaccine, meaning they were 14 days post their first dose or seven days post their second dose when they became infected.
In 171 of the cases infection occurred 14 days after the first dose. Among these individuals, there have been 13 hospitalizations, one admission to intensive care and four deaths.
The other 20 people became infected seven days after their second dose. Two of them required hospitalization and one died.
By comparison, the province's other 2,160 cases were either unvaccinated or did not have an effective vaccine, said Russell.
Among the unvaccinated, six per cent required hospitalization, and of those, 42 per cent required intensive care, said Russell.
"We want New Brunswickers to be protected from serious symptoms, hospitalization, ICU admission and death. And we want to continue to protect our hospital system. So we all have a role to play in continuing to do that."
Landry urged any vaccine holdouts to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible. He pointed to the United States, where about 90 per cent of COVID deaths in June occurred in the unvaccinated population.
"So now is really essential to get vaccinated, not just one dose, but to get that second dose as well."
Trudeau marks vaccine milestone in Moncton
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Moncton on Tuesday to mark what he described as "a major vaccine campaign milestone."
Canada has now received 66 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine — enough to fully vaccinate the 33.2 million Canadians aged 12 and over who are eligible, he announced during a late morning stop at the vaccination clinic at the Moncton Coliseum.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and the government had previously set the end of September 2021 as a date when all Canadians who want to be fully vaccinated would be able to get both doses.
"Not only have we kept that promise, but we've delivered it two months ahead of schedule," Trudeau said.
"With enough doses for everyone, there's no more excuses not to get your shot."
Trudeau made the announcements following "private meetings," according to his itinerary.
In the afternoon, he was scheduled to head to Prince Edward Island, where he was expected to meet privately with Premier Dennis King before they make an announcement with several federal and provincial officials, including Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen.
7 active cases
The one new case of COVID-19 announced Tuesday is travel-related, said Public Health. The person, aged 19 or under in the Saint John region, Zone 2, is out of province.
There are now seven active cases of the respiratory disease. No one is hospitalized.
There have been 2,352 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province since the pandemic began, with 2,298 recoveries so far and 46 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 378,522 COVID tests have been conducted, including 676 on Monday.
Mobile and walk-in clinics
To help make getting vaccinated more convenient and accessible the province is offering mobile walk-in Moderna clinics across the province. One is slated for Rockland Tuesday at the Triple C Recreation Centre, 817 Rockland Rd., between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Other clinics accepting walk-ins Tuesday include:
Moncton — Moncton Coliseum, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (12 years and older – Pfizer-BioNTech)
Miramichi — Miramichi Exhibition Building, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (12 years and older – Pfizer-BioNTech)
Pennfield — Pennfield Lions Club, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (12 years and older – Pfizer-BioNTech)
Saint John — Marco Polo Cruise Ship Terminal, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (18 years and older-Moderna)
"Access to vaccines has never been easier in the province," Public Health said in a news release Tuesday.
"If you have not yet had your first or second dose, you are encouraged to go to a mobile or walk-in clinic or to book an appointment through a participating pharmacy or at a Vitalité or Horizon health network clinic."
Anyone 12 or older is eligible to receive a first dose and they can receive a second shot 28 days after their first.
People are asked to bring their medicare card, a signed consent form, and their record of vaccination if they're receiving their second dose.
Atlantic COVID roundup
Nova Scotia reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and has nine active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador is now reporting statistics only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. As of Monday, there were 32 active cases — 31 connected to the Princess Santa Joana, a Portuguese fishing vessel that anchored in Conception Bay earlier this month, one of whom is in hospital. A crew member from the the Santa Cristina, which left Bay Bulls last week, is also in hospital.
Prince Edward Island reported two new cases Monday involving non-Islanders who had landed at Charlottetown Airport, but they are not being counted in provincial totals. There are otherwise no active cases on P.E.I.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue, and difficulty breathing.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should stay at home, call 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.