Nova Scotia to vaccinate first front-line workers against COVID-19 next week

Most people may have to wait until summer or fall 2021

Nova Scotia expects to receive its first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 15.

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday the first batch of 1,950 doses will be distributed following the guidance of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“We’ll be using these first almost 2,000 doses to immunize front-line acute care health-care workers in the central zone who are most directly involved in the COVID response,” Strang said at a news conference.

He said Nova Scotia would receive the Pfizer vaccine in weekly shipments, and that after front-line workers are immunized, people in intensive care units and long-term care units in the central zone would be next.

Only after the front line is immunized will the vaccine become available to the greater community, first to people over 80 and then going down by five year increments, Strang said.

“It will most likely be the summer of 2021 before we can start offering vaccines to the broader community,” he said, noting the rollout of the immunization program would likely take until the fall.

The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at temperatures of -70 Celsius, which makes transportation and distribution difficult. Due to the handling requirements, Pfizer has said that those immunized with the first batch must be close to where the vaccine is stored. That’s one of the reasons why the initial vaccinations are happening in the central zone.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the Canadian military would assist with the logistics behind vaccine distribution.

The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at temperatures of -70 Celsius, making use of specialized ultra low temperature freezers.   Government of Nova Scotia

Current cases

The province also announced seven new cases on Tuesday, including one at Shannon Park Elementary in the central zone. The school will be closed for the rest of the week while contact tracing is carried out.

There are 78 active cases in the province, but no one is hospitalized. Since Oct. 1, which Strang said was the start of the second wave, there have been 294 cases with 216 of those considered resolved.

Strang said it seems as though the current cases are levelling out. Most of the new cases are connected to known cases or out of province travel, which he called “a good sign” because that’s closer to what was happening before the second wave.

But he emphasized that Nova Scotians must continue to follow public health guidelines as the holiday season gets closer.

Testing

Pop-up testing sites like those seen in the central zone in recent weeks will return, but no details were given Tuesday.

Asymptomatic testing is now available without an appointment at the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth for those in the central zone.

Strang said people who are asymptomatic do not need to isolate following their tests as they wait for their results.

People with symptoms, those identified as close contacts of existing cases, or people who were at places that received a public health advisory have different rules around self-assessments and booking appointments, as well as different rules around isolating while waiting for results.

Symptoms

Anyone who is experiencing one of the following symptoms should complete an online self assessment or call 811 to determine if they should be tested:

  • Fever
  • New or worsening cough

Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms should also be assessed:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
Ben Roth

Ben Roth

Ben Roth is a reporter based in Halifax with interests in local breaking news, world news, and investigative features. He has a keen love for adventure and is always looking for the next story.

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