New Brunswickers who are 85 and older may now contact a pharmacist to set up an appointment to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Appointments will be scheduled at nearly every pharmacy in the province, with the first vaccinations starting Wednesday, March 17, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said in a news release Thursday.
"Right now, only those who are 85 and older, or those calling on their behalf, can contact pharmacies to book an appointment," Shephard said.
"We have seen how booking systems in other provinces have been overwhelmed and how residents of some provinces have been forced to queue up to wait for vaccines. We do not want that to happen here, which is why our plan includes a gradual, sequential rollout."
Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said that while the vaccine is currently only available to the 15,000 New Brunswickers who are 85 and older who live in the community, it will be accessible over the coming months to everyone who would like to be vaccinated.
She praised New Brunswickers for playing a key role in "keeping our COVID-19 numbers among the lowest in the country" by avoiding actions that would overwhelm the health-care system.
"In the same way, we ask you to patiently wait for your group to be identified before trying to book an appointment," she said.
Vaccines will be administered by appointment only. Appointments may be booked only by individuals who are 85 or older or by a family member or caregiver on their behalf.
People who meet the criteria are asked to book only one appointment in one location.
A Medicare card will be required to book an appointment, however residents without a Medicare card are still eligible.
Appointments may be booked online if the pharmacy has an online booking tool on their website. Otherwise, appointments should be made by calling the pharmacy.
Shephard said Thursday that more details about New Brunswick's updated COVID-19 vaccination plan, including timelines for additional age groups and priority groups, will be provided Friday.
Two new cases reported
Public Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
Both cases are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and break down this way:
an individual 30-39
an individual 40-49
Both cases are under investigation and are self-isolating.
The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1462. Since Wednesday, two people have recovered for a total of 1,398 recoveries. There have been 29 deaths, and the number of active cases is 34.
Three patients are hospitalized and two are in intensive care. A total of 238,409 tests have been conducted, including 782 since Wednesday's report
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:
A fever above 38 C.
A new cough or worsening chronic cough.
New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should:
Stay at home.
Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.
Describe symptoms and travel history.