New Brunswick now has an updated COVID-19 vaccination plan that aims to see every resident who wants to be vaccinated get their first dose by July 1 and a second dose by summer's end.
At a technical briefing ahead of Friday's live-streamed public briefing, officials revealed revised details based on new vaccine supply numbers and schedules.
"In the weeks ahead, we will make a giant leap forward in our journey toward a new normal," Dr. Jennifer Russell said.
Under the new plan, the 60-64 age group has been moved up the priority list and will now be vaccinated ahead of the 16-24 age group "in accordance with national trends."
However, the 16-24 group "was always going to be vaccinated in June, so they haven't actually been delayed," Russell noted.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the change was made, in part, because of a "substantial" increase in supply of the vaccine.
"At the time we proposed the first plan, we were not assured of supply to get students vaccinated and clear their 14-day wait time by fall," Shephard said. "We now know we're going to have much more supply than we were originally told."
The 60-64 age group will now be vaccinated in April-May, along with the 70-74 and 65-69 age group.
The Health Department also released a revised graphic showing which groups will be vaccinated when.
On Thursday, officials announced that people 85 and older can start booking appointments with pharmacists to get a COVID-19 vaccination. They can book now to start getting their shots as of March 17.
The goal is now to have all New Brunswickers who want the vaccine to have received their first dose by July 1, Canada Day, and their second dose no more than 14 to 16 weeks after their first dose.
That's been moved up from an earlier plan to extend the second dose by as much as 120 days, shaving about a week off the outside estimate of the second-dose delay.
Officials also said doctors who want to provide vaccinations at their office will be able to do so once vaccines that require less stringent storage become available, but urged residents not to call doctors, pharmacies or 811 to book an appointment until an announcement has been made about their priority age group.
"I can't stress this enough … please wait your turn," Russell said. "We do know that some jurisdictions have been overwhelmed" by phone calls requesting appointments and information.
Province records another COVID-related death, 3 new cases
The province has lost another resident to COVID-19, bringing the COVID-related death toll to 30.
Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday that an individual aged 40 to 49, residing in the Moncton region, Zone 1, has died due to underlying medical complications, including COVID-19.
The department also announced three new cases on Friday, all in the Moncton region.
Two are cases related to contacts of a previous case related to travel, and the other case is under investigation.
What to do when it's your turn to be vaccinated
Appointments may be booked at a pharmacy by individuals who are 85 or older or by a family member or caregiver on their behalf.
Beginning next week, Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network will set up clinics to administer the first dose of the vaccine to additional groups, including first responders, health-care workers who have not yet been vaccinated and individuals with complex medical conditions.
More information will be provided to these groups directly, including details on how to book an appointment, Shephard said.
As the rollout continues:
Residents are asked to watch for announcements about when their group becomes eligible, through news outlets, online at gnb.ca and at pharmacies. There are no plans to send announcements via email or by phone.
As each new group becomes eligible, individuals should book their appointment online if the pharmacy has an online booking tool on their website, or contact pharmacies to book their appointment.
"It is important that you book only one appointment, in one location," Shephard said.
A Medicare card will be required to book an appointment. Residents without a Medicare card are still eligible and should speak to a pharmacy.
For now, only pharmacies are booking appointments. Residents should not call their doctor or 811 to book appointments yet.
"Primary care providers will play a role in the vaccination plan in the months ahead, but they are not administering vaccines at this time," Shephard said.
AstraZeneca vaccine coming to N.B. soon
Pharmacies will be administering the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the coming weeks, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which does not require ultra-low temperature freezer storage, will eventually be brought into the mix, with deliveries of that vaccine ramping up later this month.
"New Brunswick will receive the first shipment of 10,500 doses of AstraZeneca" this month, with a further 50,000 doses coming in April and May, Russell said.
Rotational workers to be vaccinated by end of March
Rotational workers, truck drivers and regular cross-border commuters are just weeks away from being vaccinated.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Friday that individuals in these groups will be eligible to be vaccinated by the end of March.
"We promised to address the burden placed on rotational workers and their families by the virus and we have been able to do so by moving this group up sooner in the updated vaccine rollout plan," Shephard said.
"Our goal is to be able to ease restrictions as soon as we can on their need to self-isolate. We will share more information on this as it becomes available."
No vaccine shopping, premier urges
Premier Blaine Higgs said the majority of New Brunswick's vaccine supply at this time is made up of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
It does have AstraZeneca-Oxford doses but at a lower quantity, and has no Johnson & Johnson doses at this time. However, Higgs says he hopes people take the first vaccine available to them instead of shopping around or waiting.
"We should all be thankful that we actually have vaccines available," he said in an interview Friday on Information Morning Fredericton.
He reiterated that the vaccines are safe.
"It's available to be used in Canada, approved to be used in Canada," he said. "We don't want to get into a situation that that, you know, individuals are picking and choosing."
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.