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Explaining why the Maritimes provinces are leaving the Moderna vaccine to chill

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Experts call for quick roll-out as COVID-19 vaccines sit in freezers' Coronavirus: Experts call for quick roll-out as COVID-19 vaccines sit in freezers
WATCH: Nova Scotia has received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine, but it won't be administered until next week. In New Brunswick and several other provinces, vaccines that are ready to go are sitting in freezers. Experts are calling for that shot rollout to be stepped up. Travis Fortnum reports – Dec 31, 2020

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have both received their first shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the past two days, but there are no plans to administer any doses until sometime next week.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an Infectious Disease Physician with Toronto General Hospital, says the two provinces are not alone in being left holding onto shots.

“There’s certainly room to scale up vaccine delivery throughout the country and we did get access to vaccines a little earlier than anticipated,” he said.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, experts speculated a vaccine wouldn’t be ready until about mid-2021. Bogoch says having two variants ready by the end of the year caught many off guard.

“These are great problems to have,” he says.

Read more: First doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Nova Scotia

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New Brunswick received 2,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which it plans to use to give 1,200 long-term care residents the two doses required beginning next week.

Nova Scotia got 3,700 and, as of Thursday afternoon, doesn’t seem to have a plan for them.

In an email sent to Global News, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Health and Wellness says:

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“As supply levels increase, and with the arrival of Moderna and its less stringent storage requirements, we expect the weekly number of people getting vaccination to greatly increase in January.”

When asked if the first Moderna doses would be given out next week, as is the plan in New Brunswick, they say that’s “being finalized right now.”

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As COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, majority of Canadians optimistic about 2021: Ipsos poll – Dec 31, 2020

The Moderna vaccine requires a storage temperature of – 20 C, but that’s more like a regular freezer as opposed to the – 80 C deep freeze needed for the Pfizer BioNTech shot.

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Bogoch says limited access to freezers that can get that cold has been part of what’s making the initial rollout seem slow.

He says as more of the easier-to-store Moderna vaccine become available and deep freezers are spread out, you can expect to see vaccine programs expand, too.

Read more: New Brunswick reports 9th COVID-19-related death on Thursday

“Every single year we administer millions and millions and millions of influenza vaccines and I certainly think there’s lessons that can be learned from those very successful vaccine programs,” says Bogoch.

“And I think that you’ll see many of the vaccine programs for COVID-19 really tap into those preexisting resources — so really utilizing primary care, public health, nursing, preexisting infrastructure to the maximum capacity.”

He says he wouldn’t be surprised if the general public has a choice of where to get their shot by the summer.

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In New Brunswick, Opposition Leader Roger Melanson says to be patient.

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“Governments at all levels are doing their best to ensure the vaccines are made available to New Brunswickers at the earliest possible opportunity,” he says in a statement emailed to Global News.

“We have confidence in the federal government and in Dr. Russell, Public Health and Public Safety who are working tirelessly on the vaccine distribution effort.”

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