Nova Scotia to stay conservative in vaccinating public against COVID-19: Strang

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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia plans to continue with its methodical approach to vaccinating the public against COVID-19, the province's chief medical officer of health said Tuesday.

The province has used only about 60 per cent of its available vaccine allotment as it holds back a portion of its shipments for second doses.

Dr. Robert Strang said during a briefing that Nova Scotia's low case numbers have made a more conservative approach possible, and that likely won't change unless there is a dramatic increase in cases or solid evidence that one shot provides prolonged immunity.

"We are in a position where our best approach is to make sure that we get people the two doses of vaccine as quickly as we can, because it's with the two doses that we know there's evidence of the longest possible immunity," Strang said.

He said the province's clinical immunologists have significant concerns that a partially immune population with just one shot would be vulnerable should there be a sudden surge in cases, especially with virus variants present.

"You are actually setting yourself up to produce more variant strains because of the virus circulating within somebody's body when they are only partially immune," he said.

Strang said the province is expecting to receive its largest single shipment of vaccine to date this week — 10,530 doses of Pfizer vaccine — with half to be reserved for second doses. The shipment will go to seven cold storage sites across the province, with six doses to be drawn from each vial of vaccine.

To date, Nova Scotia has administered a total of 23,140 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 8,225 people having received their required second dose.

Strang said the province is still targeting 12,000 doses of vaccine a day during the second phase of its rollout, which should coincide with a significant increase in vaccine supply over the coming months.

The province also reported three new cases of novel coronavirus on Tuesday and now has 12 active infections.

Two of the cases identified were in the Halifax area while the other was in the western zone. Two of the cases were related to international travel and one to domestic travel.

Strang said an investigation into two cases of the U.K. variant that were reported last week had still not found a source for the infections or evidence of community spread.

He said 150 people were re-tested along with another 32 close contacts of the two cases and that so far all of the results have come back negative.

Strang was asked why the province hadn't seen the same dramatic rise in cases as Newfoundland and Labrador, which pegged its latest outbreak to the variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

"I don't have a full explanation, and we're fortunate," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press