More New Brunswickers can receive a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, starting today, as the province recorded a pandemic record-high of hospitalizations.
All New Brunswickers 18 and older are now eligible to book an appointment, as long as five months have passed since their second dose.
Eighty-six people are now hospitalized because of the virus, up seven from Sunday, including 13 in intensive care, down three.
Among the criteria for the province to consider moving from Level 2 of the COVID-19 winter plan to Level 3 is 100 active COVID-19 hospitalizations provincially or 50 COVID patients in intensive care.
Ten people are on ventilators.
Of those in hospital, 65 are over 60. None are under 19.
In Fredericton, dozens of people were lined up outside the Horizon Health Network's vaccination clinic at Brookside Mall at least an hour before it opened at 11 a.m.
In Saint John, Horizon's only vaccination clinic, located at Exhibition Park, on the city's east side, was closed.
Horizon officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Liberal health critic Jean-Claude D'Amours, the MLA for Edmundston-Madawaska Centre, said there were no booster appointments in his region either for the new group.
"As of today GNB is opening up booster doses to 18-49 year olds," he posted on Twitter. "Where are the appointments available? Zone 4: no availability in Edmundston and Grand Falls."
The province announced the expanded eligibility for boosters during a COVID briefing last Friday, as Omicron variant cases continue to surge and hospitalizations continue to grow.
The pandemic "now poses a grave threat to our health-care system," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said.
"It is urgent that every New Brunswicker get vaccinated."
People 30 and older will be given the Moderna vaccine, regardless of which vaccine they received for previous doses.
The limited national supply of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be reserved for those aged 12 to 29 "because the risk of complications in this age group, while very small, is reduced with the Pfizer vaccine," Public Health said in a news release Monday.
"There is no difference in risks between Moderna and Pfizer for people over 30," it said.
Public Health has previously said there is evidence that the risk, though cases are rare, of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart, for the younger age group is decreased with the Pfizer vaccine.
"The risk posed by the Moderna vaccine is less for those 30 and older," it has said.
At the Brookside Mall clinic, volunteers are handing out masks and asking people to "double up," putting the masks on over their existing ones, even if they were wearing an N95 or KN95.
"Our IPC [infection prevention control] best practices for most of the pandemic has called for everyone to be given a new, clean mask regardless of what they bring with them," Horizon spokesperson Kris McDavid said in an email.
"I think it's to ensure consistent standards are being met in terms of where masked are being sourced from."
As of Monday, 26 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received a booster dose, up from 25.4 per cent, 83.2 per cent have received two doses, up from 83.1 per cent, and 90.8 per cent have received one dose, unchanged.
According to CBC's vaccine tracker, 79.1 per cent of the province's total population is double-dosed and 86.4 per cent have received at least one dose.
2 weekend deaths both people in their 70s
The two COVID-related deaths reported over the weekend both involved people in their 70s, one in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and the other in the Miramichi region, Zone 7, Public Health said in a news release Monday.
No news releases were issued over the weekend.
Public Health also reported 220 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, based on PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab tests, which are being limited to groups considered at the highest risk of being hospitalized because of the virus.
That total does not include positive rapid test results, which are not diagnostic but the province is now treating as confirmatory and asking people to self-report online.
There were another 443 positive rapid test results submitted with a Jan. 9 result date, according to the news release.
Since the province launched the Point of Care Testing – Positive Result Self Reporting web portal on Jan. 5, more than 3,800 people have registered as being positive.
"Due to the delay between when people submit their results and the spread currently happening because of the Omicron variant, these numbers combined with the daily PCR positive results available on the COVID-19 dashboard are understood to be lower than the actual number of cases," Public Health said.
Still, the province will begin making positive rapid test results public on the COVID-19 dashboard by the end of the week, said Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane. The health zones and age ranges of those who test positive will also be included.
The regional breakdown of the 220 new PCR-confirmed cases reported includes:
Moncton region, Zone 1 — 110 cases
Saint John region, Zone 2 — 35 cases
Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 21 cases
Edmundston region Zone 4 — 14 cases
Campbellton region, Zone 5 — 16 cases
Bathurst region, Zone 6 — 21 cases
Miramichi region, Zone 7 — three cases
A total of 639,488 PCR tests have been conducted to date, including 1,720 on Sunday, putting the positivity rate at 12.8 per cent.
There are 7,668 active cases across the province.
New Brunswick has had 20,699 PCR-confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 12,857 recoveries so far and 172 deaths.