Freezers that until recently held choice P.E.I. tuna will now store COVID-19 vaccine

A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool

The owner of a bluefin tuna exporting company in eastern Prince Edward Island has offered up two freezers to the provincial government as public health officials prepare to vaccinate Islanders against COVID-19.

Jason Tompkins, owner of One Tuna in North Lake, P. E. I, said in an interview Thursday he has loaned two of his laboratory-grade freezers to the province to store the recently approved Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine needs to be kept at a frosty -70 C, according to Pfizer, whose vaccine got the green light from Health Canada on Wednesday.

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The freezers on loan average about -87 C, Tompkins said.

“I know that they’re not something that everyone just has laying around,” he said. “If we can do anything to help out, it’s kind of our duty.”

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He said he emailed P.E.I.’s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison to offer up the freezers when he learned the Pfizer vaccine was being considered for approval in Canada.

After discussion with Morrison’s team about the suitability of the equipment, the province picked the freezers up earlier this week.

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One Tuna usually uses each of the freezers to store up to 500 pounds of tuna loin, Tompkins said, but the season for the large fish recently ended, freeing up the equipment.

The Island expects to get its first shipment of 1,950 vaccines next week, Morrison said Tuesday, and the province will administer the doses to priority groups including residents and staff of long-term care homes, health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities.

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She said Islanders will begin to get vaccinated the day after the doses arrive.

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The tuna season doesn’t start up until July, Tompkins said, so the freezers are on loan to the government until then.

“We had the availability of the equipment and we’re a small island and a big community, and you do what you can to help out,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2020.


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