Nova Scotia to use mobile van clinics to vaccinate at Halifax homeless shelters

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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is planning to use mobile van clinics to vaccinate about 900 people who work at or use homeless shelters in the Halifax area.

Premier Iain Rankin told reporters Tuesday the van clinics "will be a key piece of our vaccine delivery program," adding that about 300 people who use shelters will have access to the van.

Chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang said the mobile clinics are set to begin operating by the first week of April. He said the mobile vaccine team will work with community organizations to ensure patients receive a second dose four months after their first.

"These mobile clinics are the final piece in our vaccine-delivery puzzle, along with health-care worker clinics, long-term care clinics, community clinics, pharmacy and doctor's office clinics," Strang said. "These mobile units will help us reach very specific groups in more accessible ways."

Meanwhile, the province opened Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccination appointments Tuesday for people aged 63 and 64, on a first-come, first-served basis. Public health is partnering with pharmacists and doctors to provide the vaccines at 25 locations, with the first immunizations starting Saturday.

Rankin said as of Tuesday afternoon, 6,000 people in the age group had booked an appointment.

Nova Scotia has said the 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it has available must be used by April 2.

Some countries have paused use of the vaccine as European regulators review safety data following isolated reports of blood clots among recipients.

The company and Canadian regulators, however, continue to say the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe. Canada's immunization advisory committee on Tuesday adjusted its guidance to say the vaccine is also safe and effective for people over the age of 65.

"There's nothing that would actually suggest the vaccine is increasing the risk of these (blood clot) events, or to suggest it's causing these events," said Strang.

"We don't even have this lot of vaccine here in North America. There's nothing that would suggest we need to do anything other than proceed with our program and watch how things evolve very carefully."

Nova Scotia reported two new COVID-19 infections Tuesday, both of which were identified in the health zone that includes Halifax. Health officials said one of the new cases involves a contact of a previously reported infection while the other remains under investigation.

Officials also reported four new variant cases in the province: two of the mutation first identified in the United Kingdom and two others involving the variant first detected in South Africa.

Nova Scotia has reported a total of 13 cases of the U.K. variant and 10 cases of the South African mutation, but officials say there is no sign of community spread. Nova Scotia has 17 active reported cases of COVID-19.

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

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press