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Overview
Vaccination
Demographics
Testing
Schools
Potential exposure advisories

One-hundred-and-forty-nine new cases of COVID-19 are newly announced today (Wednesday, May 12).

Of today’s newly announced cases, 116 are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone, 11 are in the Eastern Zone, nine are in the Northern Zone, and 13 are in the Western Zone.

Because the numbers are so large, Public Health is no longer able to provide the cause of cases (i.e., travel related, close contacts, etc.) by the time the release comes out.

Seventy-three people are now in hospital with the disease, and 14 of those are in ICU. One-hundred-and-nineteen more people are considered recovered.

Here are the daily new case numbers and the seven-day rolling averages (today at 161) for the current outbreak, dating from March 28, the last day Nova Scotia had zero new daily cases:

And here’s the graph of daily new cases and the seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

Here’s the graph of daily new case numbers from the start of the pandemic in March 2020:

Here is the active caseload for the current outbreak:

Here is the active caseload since the start of the second wave on Oct. 1:

And here is the active caseload from the start of the pandemic in March 2020, showing the primary associations of each of the major outbreaks:


AstraZeneca “paused”

Yesterday, 12,780 doses of vaccine were administered. In total, 387,683 doses have been administered, and of those, 38,152 were second doses; 36% of the total population of Nova Scotia has received at least one dose of vaccine.

People who are 40 years old and over can book a vaccination appointment here.

Today, the province “paused” the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine:

The decision is based on an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition linked to this vaccine and because Nova Scotia has enough mRNA vaccine to immunize people age 40 and older.

Anyone who is scheduled to receive their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine will be contacted by their clinic for a new appointment for either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in a timely manner.

A decision on second doses will be made once more information is received from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Nova Scotia’s vaccine plan will be adjusted based on this guidance.

“This will not take us off course,” said Premier Iain Rankin at today’s COVID briefing. “To be clear, our vaccine program continues to roll out on schedule. And it’s my hope that we’ll continue down this path to get everyone a shot of vaccine in the month of June.”

The province can meet that schedule because of an unanticipated increase in the amount of Pfizer vaccine coming in the next few weeks — which will be more than the decrease in cancelled AstraZeneca vaccinations.

CBC reporter Michael Gorman asked Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang about his earlier assurances that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe:

Gorman: Dr. Strange, with respect to the pause on AstraZeneca, notwithstanding the information that you’ve already provided, people who have had AstraZeneca in the past have heard you and other health officials say that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to them now. And so what would you say to folks who have recently had AstraZeneca or perhaps not even recently and are perhaps concerned when they see that the province is now hitting pause on taking any more and in fact canceling appointments for people who already have those?

Strang: So, first of all, maybe other public health officials have said that — I’ve never held that position. We’ve always in Nova Scotia taken [the position] that people may have a choice on vaccine products, but we’ve made sure that they have an informed consent about the various risks and benefits of the different vaccine products. And we’ve been very clear that AstraZeneca has some unique risks to it, and made sure Nova Scotia were given that information, allowed to make a choice.

It’s true that Strang has stressed that which vaccine one gets is a matter of individual choice. For instance, here’s what he said on March 5:

Strang: we’re going to give information to people about all of COVID-19 vaccines. [They all] produce good protection against symptomatic illness and a good protection against severe disease. There is a difference in the effectiveness, though, between the the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. And so we feel, like other provinces, that that difference is enough that people should be able to make their own choice — if they feel that they’re at risk and they’re comfortable with the AstraZeneca vaccine and they’re in that age group, they’ll have a choice to get that. If they choose not to, then they can still certainly be able to get the other vaccines. It just may be that they have to wait a little longer till they can get those vaccines.

On March 9, I asked Strang specifically whether I should get the AstraZeneca shot or wait for the Pfizer or Moderna. That’s because I was in the age group that could access the AstraZenecas vaccine some weeks before I could get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Here’s our exchange:

Bousquet: I’m hoping you could help me run the calculus with the AstraZeneca. And I’ll just use myself as an example because I fall the age group that is eligible for that. Should I go to one of these pharmacies and attempt to to get vaccinated even though I’m at relatively low risk? I don’t have a lot of social contacts. Or should I wait for the Pfizer, thinking that, you know, bartenders and people at higher risk should go get the AstraZeneca first?

Strang: So, I mean, ultimately that is an individual choice. But I would say I, like Public Health officials across the country — if you get an opportunity to get a vaccine, take it. All of the vaccines we have, the three we have now and the evidence on the ones that are in the pipeline, they’re all effective at preventing the worst outcomes, which is severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Some of them may may have left with us more of a slight increased risk of getting mild disease. But that’s not really what we’re protecting. The vaccination first and foremost is about building enough immunity and preventing severe disease. So if you get a chance to get a vaccine, I would I would recommend people take that opportunity.

So on April 14, I received a dose of the AstraZeneca.

Let’s back up. Strang said today that “we’ve been very clear that AstraZeneca has some unique risks to it,” and that’s correct — but the risks until recently that were being conveyed were about the relative effectiveness of AstraZeneca compared to the mRNA vaccines — they’ll all believed to prevent severe illness, but AstraZeneca was less effective at preventing mild cases. That’s certainly what he was conveying to me on March 9.

It would be unfair to criticize him for at that point not warning me, or the public generally, about the risks of blood clotting related to AstraZeneca because at that time there was no understanding that blood clotting was an issue — the first published report I can find about it is from March 17. Science changes. We learn from data and experience, and those lessons change how we act now.

And Strang has an implied criticism of officials in other provinces who have been much more strident in defending the use of AstraZeneca.

For example, in New Brunswick, when Premier Blaine Higgs received his dose of AstraZeneca, on March 31, he said “I’ve said repeatedly about any vaccine is what we need to have available. We need to make use of it and when I had the opportunity today I made use of it.”

On the same day, Blaine’s minister of Education, Dominic Cardy, criticized the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which had issued a statement saying that people in low-risk jurisdictions like New Brunswick should consider passing on AstraZeneca and waiting for the mRNA vaccines. “Cardy said all four approved vaccines ‘represent a miracle of modern science’ and lashed out at the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, known as NACI, suggesting the national panel is ‘undermining our decisions about which vaccines to take,’” reported the CBC.

Moreover, just last week, even after someone died from blood clotting in New Brunswick after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, that province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, continued to downplay the risk; “I want to stress that medical complications following vaccination are extremely rare, but they do happen,” she said.

So Strang has been comparatively equivocal about AstraZeneca.

Still, when Gorman today asked about people who “have heard you and other health officials say that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to them now,” Strang’s response was “I’ve never held that position.” But I don’t know how else to understand his statement to me that “if you get an opportunity to get a vaccine, take it,” when the only vaccine that was available to me was the AstraZeneca.

Gorman was getting at the public’s confidence in Public Health. Strang was deflecting.

This isn’t a firing offence. And in the doctor’s defence, when he and Premier Iain Rankin initially did not rush headlong into immediately approving AstraZeneca the day it was approved by Health Canada, they were criticized by opposition leader Tim Houston, who issued this statement on March 2:

Health Canada and top doctors around the world have said that AstraZeneca is safe and effective. We should be using it to vaccinate Nova Scotians as soon as possible.

No one should be saying “no” to vaccines at this point, and no politician should be second guessing what scientists have already made clear.

If the Premier’s hesitation is the effectiveness of this vaccine on those over 65, I know a whole lot of firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and frontline workers who will gladly line up for these shots.

The need is too great for a province with the slowest rate of vaccinations in the country.

If the new Premier doesn’t want to sign for the vaccination shipment when it arrives, I will.

The bottom line is, when someone asks you if you want vaccines during a pandemic, you don’t hesitate, you say ‘yes.’

The next day, Strang approved the use of AstraZeneca.


Demographics

Here is how the new cases break down by age cohort:
• 26 aged 19 or younger (12 girls or women, 14 boys or men)
• 52 aged 20-39 (28 women, 24 men)
• 53 aged 40-59 (25 women, 28 men)
• 19 aged 60-79 (7 women, 12 men)
• -1* aged 80 or over

* there continues to be a bit of noise in the demographic data, today involving one man over 80 whose case (I’m assuming) was reassigned away from Nova Scotia’s totals and assigned to another province’s totals.

This graph shows the percentage of daily positive cases by age cohort, since April 17:

The active cases are distributed as follows:

• 453 in the Halifax Peninsula/Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 510 in the Dartmouth/Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 161 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 45 in the Eastern Shore/Musquodoboit Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 9 is in the West Hants Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 111 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 20 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 3 in the Antigonish & Guysborough Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 34 in the Colchester/East Hants Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 8 in the Pictou Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 15 in the Cumberland Community Health Network in the Northern Zone
• 36 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone
• 24 in the Lunenburg & Queens Community Health Network in the Western Zone
• 3 in the Yarmouth, Shelburne & Digby Community Health Network in the Western Zone

One-hundred-and-eighty-nine cases are not assigned to a Community Health Network, but they are in the Central Zone.


Testing

Volunteers at one of the pop-up testing sites. Photo: Lisa Barrett

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 7,289 PCR tests yesterday. This figure does not include the antigen tests taken at the various pop-up testing sites, or the antigen tests collected at some of the PCR testing centres (see below).

You do not need a health card to get tested.

Pop-up testing (antigen testing) is for asymptomatic people over 16 who have not been to the potential COVID exposure sites (see map below); results usually within 20 minutes. Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Wednesday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Canada Games Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate Public Library, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
Bridgewater Cineplex, 2-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm

Thursday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Canada Games Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate Public Library, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
Bridgewater Cineplex, 2-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm

Friday
Canada Games Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
Bridgewater Cineplex, 2-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm

You can volunteer to work at the pop-up testing sites here. No medical experience is necessary.

Public Health Mobile Units are available only for pre-booked appointments for PCR tests for people of all ages (results within three days). There are currently no mobile units scheduled.

You can also get PCR testing at the Nova Scotia Health labs by going here. Appointments can be made for the IWK, or for various locations listed below in each of the health zones (appointments may not be available at each site).

Also, asymptomatic testing has been restored at at least some of the PCR testing centres listed below, but as I understand it, some of those locations may be giving asymptomatic people the antigen tests and not the PCR tests.

Central Zone
Bayers Lake (41 Washmill Lake Drive)
Burnside/Dartmouth Crossing (77 Finnian Row)
Canada Games Centre
Dartmouth General Hospital Drive-Thru (No Taxis)
Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital
Mayflower Curling Club
Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital
Saint Mary’s University (Homburg Centre)
Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital (Musquodoboit Harbour)
Zatzman Sportsplex

Northern Zone
Colchester Legion Stadium (14 Lorne Street, Truro)
Truro (625 Abenaki Road, with drive-thru at 600 Abenaki Road)
Truro Farmers Market Drive-Thru testing
Amherst (34 Prince Arthur Street)
Pictou County Assessment Center (678 East River Rd, New Glasgow)

Eastern Zone
Antigonish Market Square
Buchanan Memorial Community Health Centre (Neils Harbour)
Eastern Memorial Hospital (Canso)
Grand Lake Road Fire Hall (Sydney)
Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital
Membertou Entertainment Centre
Northside General Hospital (North Sydney)
Sacred Heart Community Health Centre (Cheticamp)
Strait Richmond Hospital (Evanston)
Victoria County Memorial Hosptial (Baddeck)

Western Zone
Acadia Festival Theatre
Acadia University Club
Berwick Firehall
Digby Station (7 Birch Street)
Liverpool PAC (157 School Street)
Roseway Hospital (Shelburne)
South Shore Assessment Centre (215 Dominion Road, Bridgewater)
Yarmouth Mariners Centre
Yarmouth Visitor Information Centre (228 Main Street)


Schools

The current status of schools:

All schools in the province are closed through May 31.


Potential exposure advisories

Last night, Public Health issued a statement saying:

Based on a decision made by the Medical Officers of Health, Public Health is returning to issuing low-risk public exposure notifications across the province. If at these low-risk locations, such as retail and grocery stores, it is recommended that those present during the date and time listed get tested. Unless you have symptoms, you do not need to self-isolate. Public Health strongly encourages all Nova Scotians to regularly get tested for COVID-19. Please read the directions provided for each exposure notice, as they may differ based on the risk assessment.

With that, we’ve returned to a long list of potential COVID exposure sites all around the province, as follows:

Regardless of whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms, those present at the following locations on the named dates and times should get tested. For the following locations, if you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.

· Costco Dartmouth Crossing (137 Countryview Drive, Dartmouth) on May 3 between 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., May 6 between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 20.

· Walmart (6990 Mumford Road, Halifax) on May 4 between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. May 6 between 3:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., and May 7 between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Walmart (65 Keltic Drive, Sydney River) on May 5 between 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 19.

· Atlantic Superstore (1225 Kings Road, Sydney River) on May 5 between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 19.

· Atlantic Superstore (6139 Quinpool Road, Halifax) on May 5 between 6:45 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 19.

· Dollarama (7 Keltic Drive, Sydney River) on May 5 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 19.

· Lawtons Drugs (950 Cole Harbour Road, Dartmouth) on May 5 between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 19.

· Access Nova Scotia (5 Shylah Drive, Kentville) on May 5 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 19.

· Canadian Tire (6203 Quinpool Road, Halifax) on May 5 between 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., May 6 between 11:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., May 7 between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Family Drug PharmaChoice (382 Portland Street, Dartmouth) on May 6 between 3:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and May 8 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 22.

· Walmart (9097 Commercial Street, New Minas) on May 6 between 1:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and May 7 between 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Atlantic Superstore (46 Elm Street, Truro) on May 7 between 5:00 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Walmart (220 Chain Lake Drive, Halifax) on May 7 between 4:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Dollarama (50 Tacoma Drive, Dartmouth) on May 7 between 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Walmart (900 Cole Harbour Road, Dartmouth) on May 7 between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Lawtons Drugs Scotia Square (5201 Duke Street, Halifax) May 7 between 2:00 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Community Vaccine Clinic – NSCC Truro Campus (36 Arthur Street, Truro) on May 7 between 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date and time may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Atlantic Superstore (1075 Barrington Street, Halifax) on May 8 between 11:45 a.m. and1:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 22.

· Sobeys (80 First Lake Drive, Lower Sackville) on May 8 between 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 22.

· Costco Bayers Lake (230 Chain Lake Drive, Halifax) on May 8 between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 22.

· WestSide Beer, Wine & Spirits (287 Lacewood Drive, Halifax) on May 8 between 4:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 22.

· Sobeys (293 S Foord Street, Stellarton) on May 8 between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 22.

· Sobeys (287 Lacewood Drive, Halifax) on May 9 between 2:15 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 23.

· Circle K Convenience Store & Gas Station and Robins Donuts (5204 Highway 7, Porters Lake) on May 7, 8, 9 between 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 23.

· Atlantic Superstore (3601 Joseph Howe Drive, Halifax) on May 9 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 23.

*CORRECTION* Regardless of whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms, any passengers who were on the following transit routes for at least 15 minutes on the named dates and times are required to self-isolate while waiting for their test result. If you get a negative result, you do not need to keep self-isolating. If you get a positive result, you will be contacted by Public Health about what to do next.

· *CORRECTED TIME* Halifax Transit Route #3 (Crosstown) from Lacewood Terminal to Mumford Terminal on May 6 between 6:45 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 20.

· Halifax Transit Route #7 (Robie) from Robie/Lady Hammond to Robie after Pepperell on May 7 between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

· Halifax Transit Route #7 (Robie) from Robie before Quinpool to Robie/Lady Hammond on May 7 between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 21.

Anyone who was on the following flights in the specified rows and seats should visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

Air Canada 604 travelling on May 8 from Toronto (8:15 a.m.) to Halifax (11:15 a.m.). Passengers in rows 26 – 32, seats C, D, E and F are asked to immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 22.

I’ve collected all the active advisories for potential COVID exposures on bus routes and flights here.

The updated potential COVID exposure advisory map is below; you can click on the icons to get information about each site.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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5 Comments

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  1. Very objective and thorough, Tim. You are one of the few who reaize these are not normal times and decisions have to made with ever evolving evidence that may have to pause or halt as that evidence evolves more.

    I recall, as you do, that the Premier and Dr Strang were reluctant about AZ abd Premier-wannabee Houston slammed them and said they should be pumping it into arms. Kind of makes one pause about his potential. Suffice to say he is not commenting now!

  2. It’s odd to me that there is all this discussion about the risks of blood clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine but rarely does that discussion quantify the actual risk. In my understanding it’s very rare, even rarer that the risk of clotting from other more common drugs like female contraceptives.

    1. fwiw, it’s a different kind of clotting than with birth control pills, so not exactly analogous. My understanding is that there is a 1 in 100,000 chance of death, so figure 10 people in Nova Scotia, if everyone got the AZ. That’s not insignificant. But of course there is larger potential (and probably actual, alas) death from the virus. Still, it’s not unreasonable to assess the various risk profiles of each vaccine. (I’m not taking a stand on this one way or the other.)

      1. My (not a doctor) understanding is the blood clotting associated with the AZ vaccine can cause issues other than death, ranging from the temporarily unpleasant to life altering.

  3. When the press release about AstraZeneca came out on March 3 it had a strange wording about Dr Strang being directed to use the offered AstraZeneca. Putting this in context it was after the CBC national interview in which Premier Rankin indicated the Province was unsure about accepting the suddenly available vaccine and the subsequent comments from some opposition leaders about the dithering premier..

    “Yesterday, Premier Rankin directed Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, to develop a plan to provide the most effective use of the new doses but not detract from the current roll-out in which Nova Scotians over age 80 are receiving vaccinations”.

    The wording of the press release, strange for government, suggests the decision was not coming from Health.