April figures are prorated from the one million doses the province expects to receive over the course of April, May, and June. Source: Province of Nova Scotia

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As of this morning, Nova Scotia expected to see 13,500 fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine delivered in January and February, but there will be an expected increase of an equal amount of doses delivered in March.

But as provincial staff were speaking in a not-for-attribution technical briefing, word arrived that Pfizer will deliver no doses at all this week to Canada, so Nova Scotia’s expectations will have to alter once again. At the COVID briefing this afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said that while he doesn’t yet have exact numbers, he’s been assured that whatever the reduction, it will be made up for with increased doses in March.

The Pfizer disruption is caused by a plant shutdown, so that the plant can be retooled and expanded for increased production of the vaccine.

Some other provinces have ignored Pfizer’s and Moderna’s recommendations to hold back half the supply for the second dose three weeks after the first because they say they need to get the reduced protection of the first dose out as quickly as possible. Some provinces have even indicated they could delay the second dose to six or eight weeks after the first. But officials overseeing the vaccine distribution in Nova Scotia say that with the province’s very good epidemiological profile (there are now just 22 active cases in the province), the supply disruption illustrated the wisdom of following the manufacturers’ recommendations — there will be no delay in delivering the second doses.

Vaccines administered to date. Source: Province of Nova Scotia

Still, vaccination numbers in Nova Scotia remain low. As of the end of day yesterday, Nova Scotia has received 23,000 doses of vaccine since Dec. 15, of which 8,250 have been administered.

But 9,550 of those 23,000 doses were received just last Wednesday and Thursday, and half of those (4,775) have been held back for the second dose, while the other half are in transit to the vaccination clinics.

Both the officials who spoke off the record and Strang, who spoke publicly, insist that there is no inordinate delay in distribution of the vaccine. The point of vaccine distribution at this point — what’s called Phase 1 and Phase 2 — is to protect the very most vulnerable in nursing homes and to learn the ropes of vaccine distribution so as to be prepared for the very large rollout when one million doses of the vaccine arrive in Nova Scotia from April through June.

Large scale vaccination will be prioritized by age cohorts

The COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Phase 3 — involving the widespread distribution of everyone in the province — will begin in April and those receiving the vaccine will be prioritized by age cohort. I had this exchange with Strang today:

Bousquet: In the technical briefing today, I believe I understood that once we get into Phase 3, the large scale distribution, that the order of vaccination will be done by age, the oldest going to the youngest. There’s been discussion in the community about, well, people with underlying conditions, more vulnerable people should probably move up in that progression. You know, thinking of myself, I’m 57, I’m healthy. Why should I get the vaccine before a 35-year-old who has diabetes or asthma?

Strang: so we do understand those concerns. But we also have to understand that by far the biggest risk factor for severe disease, hospitalization and death is age. Other health conditions factor in, but nowhere near the extent of age.

So also knowing that as we do the planning, we really recognize that as we move into communities, basing it on age cohorts, it will actually allow us to move more quickly through the population and is the most efficient and fastest way to get all Nova Scotians access to vaccine. And we and even people who may have an underlying health condition, who may be younger, they will be protected as more and more people around them are immunized as well. So we’re really focused on age is the main way we prioritize.

The other way we’re looking at is where do we have vulnerable populations based on long standing socioeconomic factors — our First Nations, our African, Nova Scotia communities. We also have vulnerable populations who are in congregate living settings like our shelters, like our correctional facilities, that need to be put out there up front about how we make sure they get vaccinated as well.

But I come back to that really this is about getting the opportunity for all Nova Scotia to get immunized in the most efficient, fastest way possible. And sticking with an age-based cohort approach as we get into community clinics will get us there.

Today’s numbers

Four new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia today (Tuesday, Jan. 18).

One of those cases was in Nova Scotia Health’s Northern Zone and is a close contact with a previously announced case.

The other three cases is in the Central Zone and are all related to travel from outside Atlantic Canada; one of those cases is a student who attends two different universities, and who lives off campus.

There are now 22 known active cases in the province. No one is in hospital with the disease.

Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 2,016 tests yesterday.

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

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Here is the possible exposure map:

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

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  1. On January 5th PM Trudeau decided to play politics with the pandemic. ” Speaking Tuesday, Justin Trudeau said he’s disappointed the shots aren’t being distributed to Canadians at a faster pace.

    “We’ve been able to ramp up over the past number of weeks in terms of vaccine delivery, but now is the time with the new year upon us to really accelerate, and that’s certainly what I’ll be talking with the premiers about,” he said. https://www.citynews1130.com/2021/01/05/trudeau-vaccine-rollout/
    Now we know that delivery of the vaccine from Pfizer is delayed because an expansion of the Pfizer plant in Europe is under construction.