The province has opened COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to those in the 65-69 age category.
As of Friday, anyone in that group can book a vaccine appointment online or by phone.
The change means that now, anyone in the province who is 55 or older is eligible for a vaccine. Nova Scotians aged 55-65 are only eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at this time, while those 65 and up can receive Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
Premier Iain Rankin said due to the large number of people who are 65 to 69 years old, it is unlikely that the province will be able to drop down the age eligibility for the next few weeks.
The second phase of the vaccine rollout is also being changed, said Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, on Friday.
Originally, rotational workers, long-haul truckers and employees in large food-processing plants were to be vaccinated in May and June as part of Phase 2. Strang said now, they will simply get the vaccine when it becomes available to their age group.
"By making this shift, they will get access more quickly than they would if we were to do the work to set up specialized clinics for them," he said.
2 new cases
Nova Scotia is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
One case is in the northern health zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. That person is self-isolating.
The second case is in the central zone and the cause is under investigation.
The province has 41 known active cases.
As of Thursday, 138,348 doses of vaccine have been administered, and of those, 30,838 were second doses.
Laboratories in the province completed 2,527 COVID-19 tests on Thursday.
New testing recommendations
Nova Scotia is introducing testing recommendations for those entering the province from outside Atlantic Canada who must quarantine for 14 days.
They are being asked to get tested on Day 1 or 2 of quarantine, and then again on Day 12, 13 or 14. They are permitted to leave quarantine for the tests, and their quarantine ends on Day 14, even if they have not received the second negative test result yet.
Some people who are exempt from quarantine, such as military and airline crew members, are being asked to get tested three times after they arrive in Nova Scotia. Strang said the recommendations have already been communicated to those groups.
Strang said the province's vaccination focus remains on getting the first dose to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and if vaccines are delivered as expected, Nova Scotia is still on track to have all adults receive a first dose before the end of June.
As soon as that happens, Strang said the focus will shift to delivering the second doses.
Right now, people who get their first dose are being booked for their second dose about four months later. But Strang said that time frame between first and second doses could shrink if capacity allows.
"The [National Advisory Committee on Immunization] recommendation doesn't specify four months, it says up to four months," Strang said. "So there's nothing that would stop us moving people up if we're able to do that."
Rankin said 96.2 per cent of health-care workers have received either one dose or two.
All residents and staff of licensed long-term care homes will be fully vaccinated by the end of April with two doses, while those in private facilities are expected to receive their first doses by the end of April and their second doses in May, Rankin said.
The province has also prioritized Indigenous and African Nova Scotian communities.
As of this week, Mi'kmaw elders who live in the province's 13 Mi'kmaw communities have received their first and second doses. On April 23 and 24, vaccines will be offered in Halifax to urban Indigenous elders who are 55 and older as well as knowledge-keepers in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Planning is underway to vaccinate Mi'kmaw elders who are 55 and older who live outside the 13 communities, and will then be expanded to all community members who are 16 and older.
The first vaccination clinic for African Nova Scotians saw 250 people who are 55 and older receive their vaccine this week at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Upper Hammonds Plains. Other clinics will take place next week in Cherry Brook.
Improvements coming for online booking system
The province is working on improvements to the online booking portal for vaccinations.
Tracey Barbrick, the associate deputy minister of Community Services and COVID-19 immunization strategy, told the CBC's Mainstreet on Thursday that by the end of next week, people trying to book vaccination appointments will be able to use their postal code to look up locations closest to them.
The system will also only show which locations have available appointments so residents won't have to scroll through multiple pages to find a location with available slots.
Barbrick said staff are also working on a feature that will allow people to "hold" appointment times to allow them to book slots for two or more people within a closer time frame.
Right now, some people have found that they book one appointment and then when they try to book another appointment for a spouse or partner, the soonest they can find an open slot is an hour or more after the original appointment.
Until the "hold" feature is launched, Barbrick advised people trying to book more than one appointment to hold off on filling out the consent forms until after the appointment times have been chosen. Residents should pick a time, confirm it, and then pick and confirm a second time. They can then go into their email confirmation and complete the required consent forms.
Possible ferry exposures
A news release from Nova Scotia Health on Friday announced potential exposures on two Marine Atlantic ferry crossings this month.
Anyone who was on the following ferry crossings on the specified dates and times should book a COVID-19 test on the self-assessment website or by contacting 811, regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Individuals who were at the following locations during the listed times do not have to self-isolate while they await test results, unless they have symptoms of COVID-19.
MV Blue Puttees departing from North Sydney, N.S, for a day crossing on Thursday, April 1, arriving in Port-aux-Basques, N.L., the same day. Anyone exposed may develop symptoms through April 15.
MV Blue Puttees departing from Port-aux-Basques, N.L., for a day crossing on Tuesday, April 6, arriving in North Sydney, N.S., on the same day. Anyone exposed may develop symptoms through April 20.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
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