Push is on for COVID vaccinations in Atlantic Canada as region closes in on targets

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New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are urging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and encourage people they know to roll up their sleeves in an effort to hit inoculation goals.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, wants 75 per cent of residents aged 12 and over fully vaccinated — a push she called a "drive to 75" at a public health briefing Wednesday.

Among the 121 COVID-19 infections confirmed in the province throughout the month of June, she said, five involved people who had been fully vaccinated. None of those five were admitted to hospital, she added.

"Vaccines are making a difference, and in becoming vaccinated, you are making a difference," Russell said. "Please get vaccinated as soon as you can and gently encourage your family, friends, neighbours, community members and colleagues to do the same."

Newfoundland and Labrador wants 80 per cent of those 12 and over to have at least one dose and 50 per cent of residents to be fully vaccinated before it moves to the second step of its reopening plan. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, said though the government is sailing toward its targets, vaccination rates remain low among residents under 30.

"The under-30 cohort is our biggest risk factor for COVID transmission at this time," Fitzgerald said Wednesday. "We encourage communities and organizations to think of how they can best reach out to this population in their own areas."

In Nova Scotia, Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, made a personal appeal for citizens to continue to seek their shots, even if clinics are busy. "If you haven't had your first dose, book it … please book it now, there are people who need your protection and things like travel will be easier for you," he said Wednesday.

As of Monday, nearly 81 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians aged 12 and over had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and almost 24 per cent were fully vaccinated. In New Brunswick, government data indicated 79 per cent of those 12 and over had a first dose and 43.5 per cent had a second dose as of Wednesday.

The Nova Scotia government does not report vaccination rates as a proportion of the eligible population like Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, but data from COVID-19 Tracker Canada shows that as of Wednesday, 82 per cent of residents 12 and over had received a first dose and 34 per cent were fully vaccinated. COVID-19 Tracker Canada is a website run by volunteers who compile data released by federal and provincial health authorities.

Neither New Brunswick nor Newfoundland and Labrador reported new COVID-19 infections Wednesday, while Nova Scotia reported one. There are 10 active reported infections in New Brunswick and 14 in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Nova Scotia, there are 39.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2021.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press

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