‘The more the merrier’: New Brunswick vaccine rollout to include paramedics, pharmacists

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Despite delays in shipments, New Brunswick says it remains on track for mass vaccination later this year. As Travis Fortnum reports, more doses going out will mean more health care professionals giving shots – Feb 3, 2021

It’s been about a month-and-a-half since New Brunswick started its COVID-19 vaccine rollout with a clinic at the Miramichi Regional Hospital.

In the days and weeks since, several other clinics have been held throughout the province – but the process has remained relatively exclusive.

So far the immunization rollout has been working through clusters the province has identified as “priority groups,” at localized clinics, with shots administered by public health nurses.

As more doses become available in New Brunswick and immunization starts to become more mainstream, the rollout will expand to see doses doled out by other health-care workers – including paramedics and pharmacists.

Read more: New Brunswick reports 14 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday

This week, the Paramedics Association of New Brunswick gave its approval to have members trained on giving the vaccines – namely, the possible effects on the body.

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“Paramedics in this province were already trained and licensed to give intramuscular injections,” says Chris Hood, the association’s executive director.

“So it really wasn’t the psychomotor skill of actually delivering, but the immunological effect it has on the body,” he says.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have seen small numbers of injected individuals suffer minor side effects, with an even smaller number suffering allergic reactions or anaphylaxis episodes.

The CDC says the Moderna vaccine has seen 2.5 cases of anaphylaxis per million shots and the Pfizer-BioNtech version has seen 11.1 cases per million shots.

In most cases, symptoms showed up within 15 minutes of injection.

Read more: Allergic reactions to Moderna vaccine are rare, report says

Hood says symptoms like this are things paramedics in New Brunswick confront every day.

“This is a natural fit,” he says.

Another group waiting in the wings to administer COVID-19 vaccines in the province: pharmacists.

“We know that people are going to want to get their vaccine right in their community,” says Jake Reid, executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association.

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He points to a successful flu shot campaign in the fall as evidence people that more people are willing to roll up their sleeves at the local pharmacy than travel to a hospital.

“We did 50 per cent more flu shots this year than we ever did in any year,” he says.

New Brunswick says it has administered 17,277 doses of its two COVID-19 vaccines, boasting that 4,460 residents have received both of their required doses to reach immunity.

Reid says he expects to see pharmacists get their shots starting in March, with the ability to start helping with rollout by the end of the second quarter.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health tells Global News paramedics should start to factor in later in the plan, as supply increases.

Hood says it just makes sense to expect wider distribution as the rollout spreads to the general public.

“Potentially we could have about a million doses going into arms and we don’t have enough health-care providers to do that in a logical sequence,” he says.

“So, the more the merrier I guess is what I would say.”

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