Nova Scotia has received the first 1,950 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Starting Wednesday, Dec. 16, the first immunization clinic will be open in Halifax for those working in COVID-19 units in hospitals, emergency departments, critical care units, birth and early labour units at the IWK Health Centre and regional care units.
Once frontline healthcare workers receive their vaccinations, long term care residents and staff will be next in line followed by Nova Scotians over the age of 80.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed says healthcare workers were bumped to the front of the line because the number of long-term care staff and residents greatly exceeds the number of initial doses in the province.
“We don’t want to waste the vaccine. We don’t want to let it sit and wait until we accumulate more. Let’s start, at least with the healthcare workers who can come to it and continue to figure out how we work on getting it out to long-term care facilities,” said Watson-Creed.
The vaccine is being stored in a super-cold freezer at Dalhousie University. It must be kept at -70 degrees Celsius during transport, which is why for now, those looking to be vaccinated must come to Halifax.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority is working to find freezer units and appropriate spaces to set up distribution points around the province.
Two doses are required for someone to be effectively vaccinated so the province will be holding back half of the 1,950 doses on hand to ensure everyone being vaccinated can receive the proper amount.
The person in charge of COVID-19 Planning and Implementation for the Nova Scotia Health Authority Dr. Shelly McNeil says it’s important people receive the correct dosage to provide the best chance of immunization.
“We know that the vaccine was highly effective up to a couple of months after the second dose,” said McNeil. “So we know that people do need the two doses to get maximum response but we don’t know how long that protection will last beyond a couple of months at this stage.”
McNeil says the province expects to receive 5,800 doses of the vaccine by the end of December.
Watson-Creed says another manufacturer; Moderna has a vaccine ready for distribution and are just waiting for Health Canada approval.
“We are hoping to get it before the end of December or early January but we are waiting for more information on that. It doesn’t have quite the same requirements as the Pfizer vaccine does,” said Watson-Creed. “We will definitely be adding it into the mix to see if we can use that to extend out the populations of interests but the details are still being worked out.”
Watson-Creed says it’s an exciting day for Nova Scotians who have been waiting for the hope of a vaccine.
“I, myself, am completely surprised to find us here in December after having started this long journey at the beginning of this year. I think it truly is a milestone and I think it’s one of those things we’ll all remember where we were when COVID-19 vaccines arrived in our province," Watson-Creed said.
Reported by Ed Halverson