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The first delivery of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 has arrived in Nova Scotia today. This afternoon, a technical briefing for reporters was provided by Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, Nova Scotia’s deputy chief medical officer of health; Dr. Shelly McNeil, chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, and senior medical director, COVID-19 Planning and Implementation – Nova Scotia Health Authority; and Gary O’Toole, senior director, Population and Public Health – Nova Scotia Health Authority. Listen to the briefing here; a transcription follows:
This is a rough and rushed transcript.
ina Thibeault: Thank you for joining us. My name is Tina Thibeault, and I will be your moderator for this afternoon’s news or for this afternoon’s tech briefing. Today’s participants will include Dr. Gayner Waston-Creed, Nova Scotia Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health; Dr. Shelly McNeil, chief division of Infectious Disease and Senior Medical Director covid-19 Planning and implementation at the Nova Scotia Health Authority; Gary O’Toole, Senior Director of Population and Public Health, Nova Scotia Health Authority. Dr. Watson-Creed is able to speak to the overall general vaccine program, sequencing and the roll out. Dr. McNeil will speak to the vaccine itself, the process, safety, the safety of the vaccine and who should receive it. Mr. O’Toole will speak to the logistics of the vaccine program, the details on clinics and broader distribution. This technical briefing is for attribution. We will take one question and one follow up from reporters on the line in the allotted time we have. Before we open the floor to questions, I’d invite Dr. Watson-Creed to deliver a brief overview.
Dr. Watson-Creed: Thank you, Tina, and good afternoon, everyone, thank you for being here.
My colleagues and I, Dr. McNeil and Mr. O’Toole and I are more than pleased to be here and represent the dozens of people who are actually working behind the scenes right now to prepare the Nova Scotia covid vaccine program.
We’re going to get into your questions straight away. But a few things that I would like to start with just to say that although the vaccine has arrived today and we anticipate starting tomorrow, this, in fact, will be a program in constant evolution. So we don’t anticipate any sort of hard and fast stops and starts as we move from one category of people to another to get the vaccine. It’ll be rather a rolling sort of program as we learn new information and as more vaccine becomes available. For us, then I think you can appreciate that this represents quite a ride that we are embarking on, although I would say all of us are happy to be going on that ride with you today. So with that, I think we will open the floor for questions before we open the floor to questions.
Tina Thibeault: Allen, can you boost the audio a bit? Thank you again. Just a reminder, we’ll take one question and one follow up from reporters in the allotted time we have, we will start with Mike Gorman from the CBC. Go ahead, Mike, with your question. And please identify who your question is for.
Reporter: Well, I think this question is best suited for Dr. McNeil, but someone in there can correct me if I’m wrong. I’m wondering if you could speak to the logistics of the administration of the two doses. So people will be brought in to the vaccination clinic. They will get that first dose. What happens between then and the next dose and what kind of coordination goes into getting them back for that second dose?
Tina Thibeault: Gary’s going to go ahead, go ahead, Gary.
Gary O’Toole: Yeah, thanks for the question. So one thing that’s important to remember is that our initial series of clinics are intended for a specific audience. And so we’re using online booking apps for for that purpose to get people into a clinic, get them vaccinated. And these are employees, largely health care workers. And so that that online booking app is allowing us to book them initially and will be used again for subsequent or follow up vaccinations. As we move into the public offerings, that’s still a piece of work that is ongoing and we’re determining how best that will roll out. And we have several months to make that happen.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead, Mike, with your follow up.
Reporter: Well, I’m wondering more broadly if someone could speak to tracking beyond Nova Scotia, what kind of coordination is going on between the various provinces to get a sense of when people are coming and going, who’s been vaccinated, who isn’t, and whether or not somebody would be eligible based on where they are when they tried to get it?
Dr. Shelly McNeil: I can speak to that briefly, I mean, I think it’s on the radar nationally, as many of you will know, we don’t have a national, for example, vaccine registry. So the provinces and territories certainly will be doing their best to do that tracking sort of back and forth as as people travel. Having said that, one of the advantages that we will have here in Nova Scotia is that our public health measures, including our quarantine of travelers, will remain in place. So to that extent, we do know who’s coming into the province. We collect that information through the safe arrival check in when they come. And so that may be a way that we can coordinate vaccine at that time. All of that, though, is, you know, literally months away for those broader members of the public as we focus on the roll out right now to high priority populations.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Alicia Drowse from Global. Go ahead, Alicia, with your question.
Reporter: Thank you. I know that they’ve given a little bit of detail on, I guess, who their priority groups are, but can you just explain again, I know we’re starting with health care workers, and I know that it’s kind of constantly evolving, but can you just talk about the priority groups that will be receiving this?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah. So it’s Dr. Watson-Creed here. Broadly speaking, the priority groups will be certainly health care workers who are at the front lines of the covid response, long term care facility, residents and staff and then persons over the age of 80 to start and then evolving that to lower age groups in the senior population as we go. Who gets what, when and how much and how many people we can accommodate is all still a function of how much vaccine we have at any point in time and what the characteristics are of the vaccine that we have and whether or not it’s something that we can, for example, move to different parts of the province. So that’s about the extent of detail that we have right now, knowing that we’re starting with with with health care workers certainly in these early days.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead, Alicia, with your follow up.
Reporter: And just talking about logistics, there’s obviously a lot of talk about how this vaccine needs to be kept at minus 70, doesn’t need to be kept at minus 70 right up until people get a shot? Or can you just talk about the logistics of the vaccine in that regard?
Dr. Shelly McNeil: Yeah. So what the manufacturer has given us suggests that the vaccine can be brought to room temperature for up to six hours before somebody receives the shot, but not longer than that. Those stability sort of studies, though, are still ongoing with the vaccine. And so this is one of the many things that may change over time as we learn more about this vaccine and real world conditions.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Natasha Pace from CTV. Go ahead, Natasha.
Reporter: Thank you. Can you talk a little bit about when when the vaccine, when we expect more vaccine will be widely available to Nova Scotia?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, the details of that still aren’t known. So right now, we’re really not able to sort of plan into, for example, the second quarter of 2021 until we get more information from the federal government and the manufacturers as to as to what those numbers are. So the opportunity we have right now is to use what we do have to at least get the mechanism down so that we’ll be ready for that vaccine when it arrives. But we still don’t have the details on that.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead. Go ahead, Natasha, with your follow up.
Reporter: Thank you. Probably also for Dr. Watson-Creed, wondering if you could if there’s a message, I guess, for Nova Scotians. Everybody’s been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the vaccine. And now that it’s here, what would the message be to people? I know the premier said in a statement today he’s asking for patience.
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, I think we’re asking for patience. I think I would also ask Nova Scotia to keep that enthusiasm for getting the vaccine. We are intending to get as much vaccine as will be needed for any Nova Scotian who wants to receive it. And so I actually appreciate the enthusiasm. I’m glad to hear that from Nova Scotians. And we’re going to match that enthusiasm with vaccine when we can get it.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Keith Doucette from the Canadian Press. Go ahead, Keith.
Reporter: Dr. Watson. Crede, I wonder about tomorrow’s clinic, specifically how many people are scheduled? How many people can you basically do in a day? And how long will it take to get through the front line health health care workers in this particular batch?
Dr. Watson-Creed: I’m going to direct that question to Mr. O’Toole. Thank you.
Gary O’Toole: Yeah. So our clinic scheduled for health care workers tomorrow will run from 8:00 a.m. until about 6:30 p.m. We plan to vaccinate approximately 350 people in that group. And of course, that will depend on uptake and how many how many people wish to have the vaccine.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead, Keith, with your follow up.
Reporter: Do you have a so-called Patient One and will they be made available somehow to the media? We know that’s been done kind of elsewhere as a promotional tool for people to consider getting the vaccine.
Gary O’Toole: I understand there is someone identified to receive the vaccine first in Nova Scotia. Yes. I don’t have the details of that person.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Elouise from Radio Canada. Go ahead, Elouise.
Reporter: Hi. Yes. So every province is doing things differently for the first doses. I was wondering if you could tell me how the first nineteen hundred and fifty doses will be distributed? Will it be the nineteen hundred and fifty separate people or will it be split among the people getting those two doses? Can you also explain how you came to that decision?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, so for the province of Nova Scotia will actually be reserving the second half of those vaccines for a second dose to the people who received the first dose. There’s no particularly right or wrong answer to this question. I would say, and I think you would have not only seen different approaches across the country, but actually heard different experts weighing in on what the what the approach could or could not be. I think our approach here is, quite frankly, a conservative one. We want to make sure that people are immunized fully when they get immunized, and it is in keeping with the direction that the manufacturer has suggested. So for the time being, that’s what we’ll be doing.
Update 6:20pm: The Department of Health & Wellness provided the following correction:
“We are not holding back any of the initial shipment we received today as we have been assured by the federal government that we will be receiving more vaccine this month to provide the second dose. With subsequent shipments, we will be holding back 50% of the vaccine received in order to administer the second dose when it’s time. “
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead with your follow up, Elouise.
Reporter: Thanks. I was wondering just about the logistics of the freezers for the vaccine, how many more freezers has the province been able to obtain at this point?
Gary O’Toole: There are plans underway to install ultra low temperature freezers across the province to make sure that that storage capacity is available regionally in every part of the province. I don’t have the exact number in front of me at the moment. It is a it is a bit of a moving target. There’s lots of considerations in the logistics about space where where a freezer can fit, what the electrical requirements are at that location. There are also manufacturer specifications about where where vaccine can be stored at the moment. And we expect that will change slightly over time. So there are many moving pieces and all of that. We have expert people in logistics and procurement working on that actively now.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to John McPhee from the Chronicle Herald. Go ahead, John. John, are you there? I’ll come back.
Reporter: Sorry, sorry I was on mute. Sorry about that. Mr. O’toole, you just said that workers who wish to get the vaccine will get it tomorrow. So obviously, this is not going to be a mandatory thing. So if a health care worker who works in covid related settings, if they’re not vaccinated, how is that going to be dealt with? Will additional protections be put in place? Will they be restricted from from some levels of other treatment? Can you just talk about that a bit?
Dr. Shelly McNeil: Hi, it’s Dr. McNeil, so it’s important to remember that the public health measures and infection prevention and control measures that we will take in hospitals and in the public won’t change whether someone is vaccinated or not vaccinated. So there isn’t an intention to make this vaccine mandatory. We we never do that, really. But we will expect people both in the general public and among health care workers to continue to follow all of the preventive measures that are in place now. And that’s largely because we don’t have information yet about whether the vaccine will prevent people from getting asymptomatic or infection without symptoms that and may be still able to transmit the virus. So for the time being, for the foreseeable future, people will be all asked to continue to follow all of the public health measures that we have in place at present.
Tina Thibeault: Just a reminder for those of you on the reporters on the line, if you can identify who your question is for and we’re being asked to identify those participants in the room speaking. So when you’re taking a question, please identify yourself for those listeners on on the phone line. Go ahead, John, with your follow up story about that.
Reporter:The provinces is going to continue to receive small, in the news release it’s characterized as small weekly shipments of vaccine. Do we know how long do you have even a ballpark figure of how big those shipments would be? And I guess this would be for Dr. Neil.
Dr. Shelly McNeil: I think this would actually be for Mr. O’Toole or maybe Dr. Watson-Creed.
Dr. Watson-Creed: I’ll go ahead with. What we know is that the shipment, for example, that we’re receiving today is in the order of one thousand nine hundred and fifty doses. And I think between now and the end of December, we’re expecting somewhere in the order of 5800 doses. So very, very small amounts. That’s as much as we know right now, really. And again, depending on what the manufacturer continues to communicate and what else we hear across the country, that could change. So for the time being, that that’s the information that we have, but subject to change over time.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Lindsay Armstrong from all Nova Scotia. Go ahead, Lindsay.
Reporter: There’s something interesting and as we’ve mentioned, that the vaccine doesn’t necessarily prevent individuals from not spreading the virus and that these public health measures will be around for some time. What is that timeline like? Is is it expected that mask wearing and physical distancing will be will be critical throughout until everyone gets vaccinated? For what sort of a time period of this? And I think the questions for Dr. McNeil.
Dr. Shelly McNeil: Yeah, it’s difficult to say. The trials that were done with this vaccine were looking for its ability to prevent symptomatic infection. So we don’t know. While we hope, of course, that people who are vaccinated will not become infected without having symptoms and will not be able to transmit the virus, we won’t know that in the early term. So how long the measures are in place really does depend, as you said, on the number of people who are vaccinated and the overall circulation of the virus in a community. But I would expect that they would continue for the next several months at the very least.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead with your follow up.
Reporter: Thank you. And then on the first 1950 dowes, and that those are going to be used as two doses for the first batch of recipients. How long do you expect until that first nine hundred and seventy five health care workers are vaccinated? And how are these people chosen? Is it based on those who are highest, highest risk with covid patients?
Gary O’Toole: Yeah, so folks are chosen based on whether or not they fit into the priority groups that have been identified and we’ll keep going. So we have a number of people on our list that that match those criteria; we will keep going until all the doses are gone. That is our plan. We have our first series of clinics set up in that way that we will keep moving through people and through we’ll keep moving people through those clinics until the doses are complete.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Tim Bousquet from the Halifax Examiner. Go ahead, Tim.
Reporter: I have a question for Mr. O’Toole about nursing homes. They’re pretty high priority. Second on the list, I guess. Do you anticipate transporting nursing home residents to the hospital or by the time that roll out happens will you be able to bring them to the nurse, the doses to the nursing home? And how will that work at far flung nursing homes in Cape Breton and so forth?
Gary O’Toole: Yeah, I think our goal always is to get the immunization as close to the person who’s receiving it as possible. And of course, we all know that there are specifications around this particular vaccine that we need to pay attention to. And so our our goal is to move the product as close to people as we can. And we expect that that information will continue to evolve over the next several weeks. And so we’ll know more about the specifics of the provision of vaccine in a long term care facilities and nursing homes as the weeks move on.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead, Tim, with your follow up.
Reporter: I think this is for Dr. McNeil. I wonder if down the road after this first priority, this kind of is made through, it’s clear that the aim right now is to protect the people being vaccinated. I wonder if the philosophy might change down the road to protect the greater public rather than the person being vaccinated. Would there be a change in who gets vaccinated? For example, people who are more social would get vaccinated because they might be less of a danger to more people, if you follow what I mean.
Dr. Shelly McNeil: So it’s an interesting it’s an interesting thought, of course, you know, vaccinating people does protect or we hope will protect people around them. So the more people we can get vaccinated, the better. Right now, we’re focusing, of course, on those people most at risk of being exposed to covid-19 because they’re health care providers or they’re most at risk of severe disease if they were to come to become infected with covid-19. So by age or by underlying medical conditions or by living in a long term care facility, for example. I think as the vaccine program rolls out, we will see broader use in the community as we get more and more doses, as Dr. Watson-Creed said. And I don’t personally foresee a situation where we would specifically target higher risk populations for transmission, but that could be something that’s considered as more vaccine doses become available, I suppose.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Victoria Walton from The Coast. Go ahead, Victoria.
Reporter: Thank you. I think the question for Dr. Watson-Creed, I’m wondering because the vaccine is voluntary, if you have an estimate of how many Nova Scotians in total are going to be looking to get this vaccine, I know we’re a long way away from the total being vaccinated, but what percentage of Nova Scotia do you think will want the vaccine? And as it relates to that, you know, how many vaccines total will we be looking for?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, I don’t have precise numbers, but I think the estimates that we’re getting are that, you know, certainly from, for example, polls with the general public. I think what we’re seeing both in Nova Scotia and across the country is that upwards of 60 percent of Canadians are already interested in getting the vaccine. I think that number will grow as vaccine becomes available and as more and more people know people who have been vaccinated and it becomes a very tangible kind of reality for them. So there’s that. From a herd immunity perspective, as Dr. McNeil was just referencing, we generally look for about 70 percent of a population to get a vaccine in order to create that immunity. So we’ll be looking for that as well. And I think, you know, if our our flu shot example is any indication, you know, this year we’ve had quite a high uptake of our influenza vaccines in the province of Nova Scotia. And, you know, that’s probably, we don’t have the numbers right now but I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the order of about 50 percent of Nova Scotians. So I think all in all, the signs are pointing to a high degree of of interest in the vaccine and Nova Scotians getting it in high numbers, which would be excellent for the covid response.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead with your follow up, Victoria.
Reporter: Thanks. I think this question is for Dr. McNeil, somebody mentioned that somewhere out there could be up to three hundred fifty people receiving the vaccine on the first day. Do you expect to hold these vaccine clinics every day until the vaccine runs out, or do you expect to have them run out pretty quickly and then have to wait for the next shipment of vaccines to arrive or to continue vaccinating?
Dr. Shelly McNeil: Over to Mr. O’Toole, yes.
Gary O’Toole: So we we do plan to immunize until the vaccine product is all used up and we want to make sure that there’s very little or no wastage of vaccine product as well. As some of you would be aware, the the product, once it’s thawed, is is good for a specific period of time. I think it’s five days in our vaccine refrigerators. And so we want to make sure that product is in arms. And that is exactly our plan.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Jean Laroche from CBC. Go ahead, Jean.
Reporter: Hi there. This is in no way. I just want to preface this in no way disparage health care workers and hospital workers. But I wondered if you could explain why they moved to the front of the line in Nova Scotia, where in Quebec, for example, they decided to vaccinate elderly people who are most at risk of being seriously ill and dying from covid.
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, thanks for the question, John. It really comes down to a combination of factors, including logistics in in every province. And so certainly in our case, with the vaccine arriving in Central Zone and with large numbers of long term care facilities and long term care facility staff across the province and a small amount of vaccine, all of those things added up to although we want to get to those folks as quickly as possible with the vaccine we have now, rather than wait until we get more vaccine, let’s use it on another priority group, which happens to be health care workers who can come to the vaccine. And so that’s the other logistic consideration, is that this is a vaccine product, that we are not moving for the time being away from its point of delivery. And so it also needs to be a population that can come to the vaccine. So all of those things kind of lined up to, OK, 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 health care workers who can come to it and continue to figure out how we work on getting it out to long term care facilities. So definitely high on our radar as just working through the logistics.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead, Jean, with your follow up.
Reporter: Can I just confirm that was Miss Watson-Creed who was responding to my question. I can’t see her, so.
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yes, thank you.
Reporter: OK. OK, and just to follow up in terms of freezers because Mr. O’Toole, I heard you talk about the fact that you’re looking to buy them and install them. How many freezers like the one that was that is now storing this covid vaccine are there in the province? And where are they?
Gary O’Toole: I don’t have a specific answer to your question, but I will restate that our our goal is to have ultra low temperature freezers specifically located in each area of the province regionally. So I don’t have a sense. I know I know that these freezers are in demand. I know there’s a lot of interest around these freezers. I don’t have a specific number about how many are available. I do know that our procurement and logistics team are actively working on the purchase of freezers and working with vendors, as well as other organizations who have these these freezers available.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Francois, Local Radio Canada. Go ahead, Francois.
Reporter: Thank you, my question, I guess, would be for Mr. O’Toole, I’m wondering about the transportation of the vaccine once you can give it out throughout Nova Scotia. How is that going to work? What challenges do you foresee? And do you have time to transport it by by roadway before it thaws and becomes less effective, I guess?
Gary O’Toole: Yeah, there are mechanisms indeed to transport this particular product under a dry ice and maintain its maintain the required temperature that the manufacturer requires. I will say that we have a well, well oiled machine when it comes to vaccine distribution in Nova Scotia. This is something we’re used to doing. We we receive vaccine into the province regularly and we distribute it across our network of public health offices and out to immunizers, our primary care providers, pharmacists, public health staff. And so we plan to leverage all of those tools in the toolbox to get vaccine moving. At the present time, however, we are limited by manufacturer requirements, and so product will not be distributed past the point of delivery, at least for the time being, and until we receive further instruction from the manufacturer on how we can do that safely.
Tina Thibeault: Go ahead, Francois, with your follow up.
Reporter: So my understanding, just to be clear, is that the vaccine is stored at the QE2 and this is where the people who will receive it starting tomorrow will have to go in order to be able to get the vaccine. Is that correct?
Gary O’Toole: The vaccine is actually being stored at an ultra low temperature freezer on the Dalhousie campus at the moment. And that’s where we will be hosting our clinics.
Tina Thibeault: So we have a little bit of time left. What we’ll do is we’ll start again at the top and we will take one question. So again, not one question, one follow up. You’ll each get another question in the allotted time that we have. So, Mike Gorman, do you have another question?
Reporter: Yeah, thanks, Mr. O’Toole. I’m just wondering when you say the aim is to have these ultra low freezers distributed throughout the province, are you talking about, say, one in each health zone or one of each regional facility around Nova Scotia? Could you be a bit more specific on that, please?
Gary O’Toole: Well, I’ll go back to what I said earlier around wanting to have vaccine product and immunization delivery as close to the population that’s receiving it as possible. That is our goal. There are a lot of logistics to to sort out. So I can’t answer your question directly in terms of the exact number or the exact locations, but know that we’re aiming to have vaccine products stored and distributed right across the province.
Tina Thibeault: Next, I’ll go to Alicia Drowse from Global. Go ahead, Alicia, if you have a question.
Reporter: Do we have any information just on how long the vaccine is effective for once the individual receives their two doses?
Dr. Shelly McNeil: Hi there, it’s Dr. McNeil, no, we don’t yet know how long the effectiveness lasts, we know that the vaccine was highly effective up to a couple of months after the second dose. 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 beyond a couple of months at this stage.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Natasha Pace from CTV. Go ahead, Natasha.
Reporter:Thank you. I guess this question will be for anyone in general, I’m just wondering whether or not you consider today to be a milestone in the fight against the pandemic.
Dr. Watson-Creed: Hi, Natasha, it’s Dr. Watson-Creed, I think we really do. I think this is a day in a moment that Nova Scotians and certainly Canadians in every jurisdiction 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. So I think it truly is a milestone. And I think it’s one of those things that we’ll all remember kind of where we were when covid 19 vaccines arrived in our province.
Tina Thibeault: Next we’ll go to Keith Doucette with the Canadian Press. Go ahead, Keith.
Reporter: Yes, this is for Mr. O’Toole. The Moderna vaccine, do we have any idea when we’re going to get it and how that will be integrated in terms of who will get that first?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, it’s Dr. Watson-Creed, I’ll actually take that that question. So right now, we don’t have precise delivery dates on the Moderna vaccine. Of course, it has not yet been approved by Health Canada. So we are hoping to get it before the end of December or early January, but we’re waiting for more information on that. It doesn’t have quite the same requirements as many of you will know as as the Pfizer vaccine does. And so we will definitely be adding it into the mix to see if we can use that to sort of extend out to the populations of interest. But the details are still being worked out.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Elouise from Radio Canada. Go ahead.
Reporter: Hi, just to come back to the people who were chosen for first doses. How many people were contacted by the province? How many accepted, if you have anyone who declined? Can you tell us a little bit about these first people?
Gary O’Toole: So it’s Gary. It’s very early. I don’t I can’t answer your question specifically other than to say I would consider this an occupational health and safety issue for the organization. So the employees, the individuals chosen for the first round of vaccine are employees of health care organizations and and as such are being contacted by their employer to attend a clinic.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to John McPhee from the Chronicle Herald. Go ahead, John.
Reporter: Thank you. I’m not sure who this would be for, possibly Dr. McNeil. I’m just wondering when we do get to the point where the vaccine is going into the general population and we get to the step where older people beginning, I believe it’s 80 years old, and then it goes down five year increments. How is that going to be arranged? How are you going to choose where where that phase of the immunization will begin or will begin in the province wide sort of approach? Do we know at this point?
Dr. Watson-Creed: It’s Dr. Watson-Creed here. I’ll take that question. At this point, we don’t know. So, you know that population is high on our radar for the reasons that Dr. McNeil mentioned, advanced age being a risk factor for serious complications from covid. But this because of the vaccine requirements and again, the current vaccine having the requirement of of not being moved away from the point of delivery, it’s challenging us in terms of figuring out then how we get it to those those populations. So unfortunately, those details aren’t worked out yet, but it is definitely high on our radar.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Lindsay Armstrong from all Nova Scotia. Go ahead, Lindsay.
Reporter: Thank you. I’m looking at the Moderna vaccine, understanding that that’s not quite approved yet. And they’re recognizing it doesn’t need to be refrigerated at the same ultralow temperature as the Pfizer vaccine. I just want to clarify, are there plans to use these two vaccines differently with the Moderna one being used specifically further outside of city centers because of the freezer?
Gary O’Toole: Yeah, that’s a good question, and I think the answer to it is, yes, you know, the vaccine product and the specifications around the product in terms of refrigeration will determine largely what the model of delivery of the vaccine is. So the further we can move the product and the less stringent the requirements around ultralow temperature or low temperature or refrigeration requirements, that provides additional flexibility for us in movement of product closer to those who are to be immunized.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Tim Bousuet from the Halifax Examiner. Go ahead, Tim.
Reporter: I think this is for Dr. Watson-Creed. Once people get vaccinated because it’s a two step process, I’m wondering what the person, are they going to be given some sort of documentation, both as a reminder to get the second one and something along the spectrum towards a vaccination passport, if you will, or… what kind of verification will the person have?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, thanks for the question, Tim. So the short answer is yes. Yes, we are looking to do that. So to give folks that documentation of having received their two doses and I think the scheduling system maybe Mr. O’Toole can speak to in terms of how we’ll recall people back for their second dose. The mechanism of documentation we’re still working out. There’s actually a national conversation happening about that and about what tools are already at the disposal of Canadians that we might use for documentation of vaccine. So that hasn’t been finalized. But but certainly giving giving that assurance to folks by way of proof will be something we’ll be looking to do. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we’re looking at any kind of vaccination, I think you use the word passport, yet. So Dr. McNeil has already pointed out that we still are not sure how this vaccine will perform in real world conditions. So we don’t really know the extent to which the immunity will last over time. And so those things need further study. So although we’re hopeful that the vaccination campaign will have a definite impact on covid transmission, how long that impact will last and what else may need to be done is still still being developed. So the idea of a passport that sort of certifies somebody as immune currently is not on the table.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Victoria Walton from The Coast. Go ahead, Victoria.
Reporter: Thanks. I’m wondering about in terms of receiving the vaccine and in order for support for international students, for people in permanent residency or temporary foreign workers and even undocumented people, I’m wondering where those people will be on the list or if they’ll have to provide any sort of documentation to be able to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, it’s Dr. Watson-Creed, I’ll answer that to say that we don’t have the details on that worked out. You know, as we get further and further into the immunization campaign in 2021, we will be looking at, you know, who are those priority groups, those kind of populations at high risk for a multitude of reasons that we need to pay attention to. And so many of the groups that you described, I would say, are certainly of interest to us in that respect. But again, our focus right now is with the vaccine that we have and that sort of the current planning for this month and into the first quarter of 2021. So no need, no details on that yet.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Jean Laroche from CBC. Go ahead.
Reporter: Yeah, yeah, I just want to touch on a point that Dr. Strang raised last week. He had talked about getting to the general population in terms of vaccinations in the summer and the whole shooting match. Everyone who needs or who wants a vaccine being done by the fall sometime. Is that still the target? And what would what needs to happen for you to hit that target or miss that target?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Thanks, Jean, it’s Dr. Watson-Creed, I’ll take a stab at that question as well. It is the target. And I think as we’ve all sort of pointed out throughout this briefing, this will be a rolling target. So, so much can change between now and next summer. It’s hard to know precisely what it is that will have to be in place in order to meet that target. Certainly a big part of what will have to be in place is more vaccine. So, you know, we’re anxiously kind of awaiting those next steps, those next approvals from Health Canada, those next deliveries of vaccine, all of that contributes to us getting to that goal. So certainly, you know, we are looking to have across the country large numbers of Canadians immunized of any description. But a lot of moving parts need to come into the right configuration before that can happen.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Fraoise Dougot, Radio Canada. go ahead, Francois.
Reporter: Hello again, I guess the question will be for Dr. Watson-Creed, I’m just wondering, are there any requirements for people who will be receiving the vaccine, maybe not eat anything in the few hours before you receive the vaccine? Are there any limited physical activities that they can or cannot do after they’ve receive the vaccine?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Yeah, so the answer is no. You know, our advice around this vaccine is similar to the advice we give for any other vaccine. So we would ask that people be well when they show up to the clinic. So if they are experiencing symptoms of covid or another respiratory illness, that they wait until those symptoms are resolved before they come for a vaccine. Aside from that, we’re welcoming people to come. I might turn it over to Dr. MacNeill to see if she has anything to add.
Dr. Shelly McNeil: Yeah, thanks, Dr. Watson-Creed. So just to note that there are some people who we don’t have enough information about the safety of this vaccine. So in the early phases, we would would be avoiding vaccination in people who are immunocompromised, whether that be by disease or by medications, people who have autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis or lupus or things like that, and people who are breastfeeding or pregnant. And that’s really because the clinical trials that were done with this vaccine to look at its safety and how well it worked didn’t include any of those groups of of people. So we don’t know yet about that. We will be, of course, getting more and more information and and talking to those people about vaccine soon. But for the moment, we would be not vaccinating those people.
Tina Thibeault: So we have a couple more minutes. We’ll take a few more questions, we’ll start again at the top of the list. Mike Gorman, do you have another question?
Reporter: No, I’m fine. Thank you for setting this up.
Tina Thibeault: No problem. Alicia, drowse global. Do you have a question?
Reporter: I just wanted to follow up on an earlier question just in regard to how not knowing how long the vaccine is effective for, I’m just wondering if there’s a possibility of a scenario where people could essentially be vaccinated twice. So four doses of those high priority groups before others are vaccinated even once, if it turns out that the vaccine is only effective for, you know, three to six months or something like that.
Dr. Watson-Creed: So that’s a difficult question. I think we won’t have we I think we would be surprised if that were a scenario that would arise. So, of course, we only have a couple of months of data now to see how long the vaccine protection lasts. But that data will accumulate over time. We’ll be following the people in the clinical trials to see how long the protection lasts and continuing to vaccinate new groups as we go. So I would hope that we wouldn’t be in a situation where the vaccine is that short lived, that we would be forced to dose people twice in the short term.
Tina Thibeault: We’ll go to Natasha Pace. Natasha, another question.
Reporter: I just want to clarify that I heard Mr. O’Toole right, that the vaccine is being kept in an ultra low temperature freezer at Dal, and that’s where the first immunization clinic will be held tomorrow.
Gary O’Toole: That’s correct.
Tina Thibeault: Next, we’ll go to Keith Doucette, the Canadian Press. Keith, any questions? Elouise from Radio Canada, any questions?
Reporter: I just to clarify for the vaccine. The vaccination is going to start tomorrow. How quickly do you expect to be done to vaccinated everyone with these first doses?
Gary O’Toole: It’s it’s difficult for me to answer that question, only because it is so dependent on how many people decide to take advantage of the vaccine. So if we have a high uptake and a lot of health care workers interested in getting the vaccine, we will move through those doses very rapidly, probably within three or four days.
Tina Thibeault: John McPhee from the Chronicle Herald, any questions?
Reporter: Just one, I guess this would be for Mr O’Toole. Do we have any idea how much this is going to cost the province?
Dr. Watson-Creed: It ‘s Dr. Watson-Creed, I really don’t. Those are details that I’m not involved in. There are a number of other logistics tables that are that are looking at that and tracking those costs.
Tina Thibeault: Lindsey Armstrong, do you have another question?
Reporter: You’re just following a close question there regarding the timeline on how quickly these first doses will be done. I recognize that it’s based on interest, but is there any any indication that we we won’t have at least 1000 health care, higher priority health care workers signed up for these first doses?
Dr. Shelly McNeil: I think — it’s Dr. McNeil — enthusiasm for the vaccine is very high, where we’re excited, most health care workers are quite excited to have the vaccine. I wouldn’t anticipate that we couldn’t we won’t have enough people to administer these first doses. So we’re we’re excited to move forward and we’re really expecting that that people will come forward happily.
Tina Thibeault: Tim Bousquet, do you have another question?
Reporter: Just very quickly for Dr. Watson-Creed, is there a percentage of the population that is the aim of total vaccination to reach herd immunity or prevent further spread of the disease?
Dr. Watson-Creed: Thanks for the question, Tim. There is actually. Generally with most vaccine preventable diseases, we are looking for upwards of 70 percent of a population to be immunized in order to get herd immunity. And the higher we are in that percentage. Of course, the better. So the idea is that the vaccine loses the opportunity to find people that it can infect. So if you can imagine an infected person surrounded by 10 people and seven of them or more are protected by the vaccine, then in fact, the the virus basically has nowhere to go to find a new host. That’s the idea behind herd immunity. And so we are looking for as high percentage as possible, but certainly we’d be aiming for 70 percent at a minimum.
Tina Thibeault: Victoria Walton, do you have another question?
Reporter: Yeah, I have one more. I’m wondering, like we talked about how we’re taking a conservative approach in reserving the second half of those first doses for the follow up, the second dose. I’m wondering if there’s a worry that access to the vaccine could change over the coming months. You know, if there’s a bigger outbreak in western Canada or central Canada, if they’ll be a priority for the vaccine there and therefore less coming to Nova Scotia. Is that why we’re being conservative with our approach?
Dr. Watson-Creed: It’s Dr. Watson-Creed. Thanks for the question. I mean, that’s certainly a consideration. I don’t at this time see that it’s a high risk just simply for the fact that we have some, I think, fairly reliable assurances from the federal government now on how the vaccine is being distributed for each of the provinces and territories and and some, I think, solid kind of approaches there. So I think our approach is more just in keeping with what the manufacturer has recommended on their end, which is less about shifting vaccine between provinces and more about them wanting to make sure that they can honor the commitment for supply that they’ve made. And so that’s that’s part of the consideration around reserving those second doses.
Tina Thibeault: And we’ll take one last question from Francois Dufot Raido Canada, go ahead, Francois.
Reporter: Thank you very much. Maybe it’s just a clarification for tomorrow. You will have the first vaccine that will be given out at Dal and you have a list of health care employees that you have identified. Do. Do you know exactly how many people will show up out of that list or I mean, is it is it mandatory for them to show up or is it is it up to them to they’ve been put on that list, but they may or may not show up.
Gary O’Toole: So it’s not mandatory, the vaccine is not mandatory. However, if if someone is on the list for tomorrow to receive the vaccine, it means they’ve accepted the appointment. And so we’re hoping that our appointments I don’t I don’t have an update currently, but I will by the end of the day, know how full the clinic is for tomorrow. We’re hoping that it’s full tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.
Tina Thibeault: And that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you very much for participating.
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