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Premier Iain Rankin told journalists after the first meeting of his new cabinet today that all Nova Scotians can expect to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June.

That statement is conditional on Nova Scotia receiving the supply it has been promised by Ottawa and vaccine manufacturers.

This rapidly improves on the scheduling presented Tuesday, when vaccination officials presented a chart showing that most age groups would not receive their first dose until after the middle of July, and the youngest groups not until September.

The change comes due to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)’s announcement yesterday that “jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the interval for the second dose of vaccine to four months.”

Rankin said this means more Nova Scotians can be vaccinated more quickly than previously thought.

“We no longer have to hold back the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine,” said Rankin. “So if you do the math, that means the doses or the allocation we have been promised means all Nova Scotians will be able to get their first dose by the end of June.”

Registration mayhem

Rankin was asked how the government intends to avoid a repeat of last Monday’s debacle when 40,000 people over the age of 80 tried to book a vaccination appointment by phone or online when both systems crashed.

Rankin said “lessons were learned” and changes are coming which will be spelled out at tomorrow’s Public Health briefing. 

“Moving forward we are going to be looking at the month when people were born to limit the list of invites,” said Rankin. Next Monday, March 8, instead of 48,000 seniors competing in a lottery to book 2,000 appointments, Rankin said there will be 13,000 appointments available. 

More details will also become available tomorrow on how Doctors Nova Scotia and the Pharmacists Association of Nova Scotia intend to go about scheduling people between the age of 50-64 who wish to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. The program is voluntary. Nova Scotia has accepted 13,000 doses which must be used by April 2. 

Rankin said the fact the province waited almost 24 hours to accept Ottawa’s offer was not a delay — as Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston has charged — because the province had until today to provide Ottawa with its answer. Rankin said he wanted advice from Public Health and a plan for how the AstraZeneca could be rolled out separate from the Public Health effort underway to vaccinate seniors and healthcare workers.

Halifax-area restrictions lifted

Low case numbers — just 29 active cases (see below) — mean restrictions imposed on HRM, Hants, and Lunenburg counties last Friday will be lifted tomorrow. These include travel bans to the rest of the province, the use of school gyms, wedding and funeral gatherings, and restaurant hours which will go back to serving until 10 pm.

Today’s numbers

Three new cases of COVID-19 are announced in Nova Scotia today (Thursday, March 4).

All three cases are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone; two are are close contacts of previously announced cases, and the third is under investigation.

There are now 29 known active cases in the province. Five people are in hospital with the disease, two of whom are in ICU.

The active cases are distributed as follows:

• 4 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 6 in the Dartmouth/ Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 9 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 3 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 1 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 2 in the Cumberland Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 1 in the Colchester/East Hants Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 1 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone

Two cases aren’t ascribed to a community health network.

Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 6,551 tests yesterday.

More pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites and times:

• Friday: Spryfield Lions Rink, noon-7pm
• Friday: Halifax Convention Centre, 3:30-9:30pm
• Saturday: Halifax Convention Centre, 3:30-9:30pm

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 3.6) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Here is the updated potential exposure map:

With files from Tim Bousquet.

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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