Nova Scotia’s planned vaccine rollout by age cohort.

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Seventy percent of adults in Nova Scotia should receive their first dose of COVID vaccine by around mid-May.

That information was related to reporters in a not-for-attribution technical briefing this morning. The briefing was called to update figures and plans because the federal government has given a better indication of the number of doses expected to arrive in Nova Scotia through the summer. Officials made clear that the projections are not exact beyond a two-week horizon, but the new numbers are considerably higher than what the province expected in January.

In January, officials expected about 140,000 doses of vaccine by the end of March; that number is now over 200,000 — but, crucially, 80,000 of those doses are Pfizer vaccine to be delivered in the last week of March.

But the bulk of the increase in vaccines comes over the next three months:

Availability and capacity

The question is: Does Nova Scotia have the capacity to quickly deliver the increased doses that will arrive in the province? The officials insisted that there is that capacity.

The officials again fended off criticism that Nova Scotia is behind other provinces in vaccine rollout so far, using the following stats for doses received by end of day yesterday:

119,110 doses received to date:
• 60,660 doses in arms
• 21,856 second doses held in freezers (used by April 2)
• 36,594 doses being used at clinics this week

They pointed out that the strategy for holding back the second dose ended with those who booking vaccinations beginning March 8, but people who booked before that date will receive their second dose in the 21- to 28-day time frame, as promised. To call those people up and cancel their second dose appointments would be incredibly cruel. Regardless, all those held-back second doses will be administered by April 2, and so Nova Scotia’s percentages will start looking like other provinces.

They insist that all doses received one week will be delivered by the end of the following week. Vaccination bookings are scheduled only for the two-week window when vaccine is absolutely confirmed to be delivered to the province.

This week, there are 74 vaccination clinics operating to distribute the 36,594 doses  — 31 clinics in nursing homes, six clinics for health care workers, 10 community clinics, 25 AstraZeneca clinics in pharmacies, and two First Nations clinics.

In the next few months, the capacity of clinics and the expected arrival of vaccine looks like this:

Where the blue vaccine line is above the brown capacity line in March, this reflects the large number of second doses held back. The blue line again exceeds the brown line this coming week, in that an unexpectedly large number of Pfizer vaccine is arriving. But capacity is expected to soon after quickly exceed supply until the two again match up in late June. That extra capacity gives the province the ability to handle larger amounts of vaccine, for example if the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets distributed to Nova Scotia or should more-than-expected AstraZeneca doses arrive.

Two-thirds of the vaccine doses will be distributed through pharmacies and physicians’ offices, and the other third through community clinics. Very small numbers of doses will be distributed by mobile clinics to homeless shelters and people who can’t leave home.

People in some areas of the province have faced long drives to get vaccinated, but officials say many pharmacies and doctors’ offices are coming into the distribution plan. Here’s a working map of those already approved:

The projected dates of vaccinating age cohorts (shown in the graph at the top of this post) are based on the expected supply being available and on the assumption that 90% of people get vaccinated. Should more vaccine be made available, or should less than 90% of each age cohort get vaccinated, the age cohorts will shift to an earlier position on the graph. Conversely, if there are supply disruptions or if more than 90% of age cohorts get vaccinated, the age cohorts will shift to a later position on the graph.

The officials said that public opinion polling in Nova Scotia shows that more than 75% of people say they want to get vaccinated.

Children are not calculated into the distribution plan because no vaccine is yet approved for anyone younger than 16. But vaccine trials are now being extended to children, and it is hoped that vaccines will be approved for children by about the time the province finishes giving adults the first dose.

When people make an appointment to be vaccinated, they will make two appointments: one for the first dose within two weeks, and one for the second dose 15-16 weeks later. People are encouraged to download the CanImmunize app so that a record of their vaccination can be placed right on their phones, but paper records will also be available at the vaccination sites.

So far, the Moderna vaccine has been mostly used in nursing homes as it’s easier to transport, while the Pfizer vaccine has been used in other clinics. But all nursing homes should soon be vaccinated, and much larger shipments of Moderna are coming in the next few weeks; this means that both Pfizer and Moderna will be at all clinics, but people won’t have a choice between the two — you’ll get what they give you.

But what about AstraZeneca? The province is not making AstraZeneca available to those over 65, and is now making it available to those who want it aged 60-64, although most of the available appointments have been booked. But, eyeballing the various graphs and charts, it appears that by around the time the Pfizer/Moderna vaccination plan reaches the age 55-60 cohort, the AstraZeneca supply should be available to the same cohort. So, will the AstraZeneca still be optional? Yes, Dr. Strang told me today; he said that AstraZeneca numbers will likely remain small, and while exact plans haven’t been made yet, future shipments of AstraZeneca will not be distributed through the Pfizer/Moderna clinics.

Today’s numbers

One new case of COVID-19 is announced in Nova Scotia today (Tuesday, March 23).

The case is a man aged aged 40-59 who lives in the Sydney area; the case is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

There are 21 known active cases in the province. No one is in hospital with the disease.

The active cases are distributed as follows:

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

Nova Scotia Health labs completed exactly 1,756 tests yesterday.

Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following locations:

Tuesday: Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Friday: Cole Harbour Place, noon-7pm
Saturday: Cole Harbour Place, 11am-6pm

You can also get tested at the Nova Scotia Health labs by going here.

By end of day of day yesterday, 66,287 doses of vaccine have been administered — 45,708 first doses and 20,579 second doses.

People who are 80 or over can book a vaccine appointment here.

People who are 60 to 64 years old can book an appointment to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine here; most of the available times have been taken, but there may be a few left. Those deciding to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be eligible to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 2.6) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Here is the updated potential COVID exposure advisory map:

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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