New Brunswick’s first target on its “Path to Green” is fast approaching, but vaccination numbers are lagging, putting the province in danger of delaying the launch of its reopening plan.
Health and government officials have pushed the provincial vaccination campaign in recent days as it prepares to enter the first of its three-phase plan to reopen the province and remove all remaining COVID-19 restrictions.
The first phase could take effect June 7, as long as 75 per cent of eligible New Brunswick residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.
As of Sunday, though, the launch campaign dubbed ‘Drive for 75’ stood at 69 per cent.
Still, New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell would not confirm the province would have to put off the start of the program.
“It is not in my hands,” she said. “It is entirely in the hands of the population of New Brunswick.”
The first phase includes removing isolation and testing requirements for cross-border commuters and people entering New Brunswick from Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador or the Témiscouata, Que., region. Compassionate travel will be allowed between those regions with testing.
Russell said she has seen a renewed energy and excitement among health care workers and people getting vaccinated as the province inches closer to the first phase.
“There is no question that (75 per cent of first doses) is a lofty goal,” Russell said. “When we’ve looked at other jurisdictions around the world, there aren’t a lot that have been able to achieve what we’re trying to achieve. So, that having been said, I do believe in New Brunswickers and all the work that we’ve done so far to get to this point.”
People attending a vaccination clinic Sunday at Exhibition Park in Saint John say they’re anticipating the removal of restrictions soon.
“Kind of gives a light at the end of the tunnel that, rather than looking at twelve months more of lockdowns and COVID, we’re into maybe two months, if not less,” said one man.
“I do want to be very safe and take it slowly and safely as a community,” a woman said. “So now that more and more people are able to get vaccinated quicker, it’s really exciting to know that we might be able to travel soon, safely.”
The province has already planned a news conference for Monday to provide an update on the 75 per cent goal. It’s expected to indicate if New Brunswick will be able to enter the first phase of the “Path to Green” on time.