The change in the vaccination schedule comes after both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna increased their supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine to Canada.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said in a press conference on March 12 that the province has a plan so all New Brunswickers would have one dose by Canada Day.
Pharmacist Dr. Ayub Chishti at the University of New Brunswick campus pharmacy is expecting a shipment of Moderna next week, which will go to those who are first priority.
“We have four people that are able to give vaccinations hopefully in a week,” he said.
Dr. Chishti reached out to the UNB nursing faculty to recruit nurses to help administer vaccines. He said the more nurses the pharmacy has on staff, the more vaccinations can be given out.
Dr. Chishti doesn’t know which vaccines he will be receiving after Moderna. As of now, Health Canada has approved four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
David Coon, leader of New Brunswick’s Green Party, said the accelerated vaccine rollout plan is possible by pushing back administering second doses. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization said Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca are effective up to four months after the first dose.
“You could delay it out to four months … but the second doses will come in the late spring and summer I expect,” said Coon.
Dr. Chishti said students, faculty or staff are not the only ones who can get the vaccine at the campus pharmacy – anyone can.
He said each vial contains 10 doses. Once the vial is open, it must be used within 24 hours.
“Basically, they [the province] told us that if you have given eight doses and two people didn’t show up, you have to run down the street and give the other two doses to someone,” said Dr. Chishti.
Coon said science is just beginning to emerge on how transmission is affected by the vaccine. This unknown is one of many factors keeping restrictions in place until herd immunity is achieved.
“People need to assume until we get to herd immunity, that even if they’re well protected by a vaccine, that it’s still possible for them to be a spreader,” said Coon.
He said the provincial government will revisit easing restrictions when 75 per cent of New Brunswickers are vaccinated. This ensures herd immunity is in place before restrictions are relaxed.
Coon said the province is also vigilant in monitoring the variants, adding it is important to remember that the vaccine is less effective against some of them.
“We’re not completely out of the woods yet.”