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

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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.

“We were so pleased to have Jason reach out to us with that offer,” Morrison said during a COVID-19 briefing Friday.

“He reached out very quickly, very early on and so we had that connection,” she added. “We were just thankful.”

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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.

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Tompkins confirmed he has offered his two other freezers to the New Brunswick government.

Greg MacCallum, the director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said the department is now considering Tompkins’ offer. “If we identify a need for it, we’ll certainly be in contact with him,” he said.

The tuna season doesn’t start up until July, Tompkins said, so the freezers are available 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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