N.S. top doc urges people to move up 2nd vaccine appointments to halt potential 4th wave of COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Dr. Strang urges Nova Scotians to move up their second COVID-19 shot'
Dr. Strang urges Nova Scotians to move up their second COVID-19 shot
WATCH: In his first media availability in two weeks, Dr. Robert Strang is urging Nova Scotians who haven’t received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to do so as soon as possible. As Alicia Draus reports, the province’s top doctor says we need to reach the target of having 75 per cent of Nova Scotians double dosed before removing COVID-19 restrictions. – Aug 5, 2021

Nova Scotia’s top doctor is stressing the need for people to move up their second dose appointments in order for the province to reach its goal of fully vaccinating 75 per cent of the population against COVID-19.

Until the province reaches that target, Dr. Robert Strang said it’s simply not safe enough to enter Phase 5 of the reopening plan, and lift all COVID-19 restrictions.

Read more: Nova Scotia election: Party leaders on how they will address COVID-19 moving forward

“We’ve always taken a cautious approach in Nova Scotia and we will continue to do so,“ he said during a briefing with reporters.

The province reported four new cases of COVID-19 and no recoveries on Thursday. This brings the province’s number of active cases to 15. Of those, one person is in hospital in ICU.

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All of the new cases are in Central Zone and are related to travel. Strang said about 40 per cent of recent cases have been linked to travel and that the “main risk is still importation,” whether it be visitors coming into the province or Nova Scotians returning home.

But Strang said a fourth wave of COVID-19 is starting — and in some cases, continuing — elsewhere in Canada and the world. The fourth wave has been driven by the highly-contagious Delta variant, and Strang said the best defence remains vaccination.

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According to the province’s data, 76.5 per cent of Nova Scotians have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 65.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Strang said if everyone who is booked to take their second dose received it, the province would reach 76 per cent fully-vaccinated coverage.

The caveat, however, is that those appointments stretch into September and October. This is despite the fact that the province currently has enough vaccines and appointments to vaccinate all eligible Nova Scotians.

“Whether we have restrictions or not in September is fully in the hands of the Nova Scotians who currently have an appointment booked but have not moved it up to August,” he said.

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As well, community clinics will close in the next few weeks, as the province “rejigs” its vaccination program to rely more on pharmacies. That means second dose appointments booked at the community clinics and some pharmacies will be cancelled, and people will receive an e-mail to re-book.

Meanwhile, neighbouring New Brunswick — which has already lifted all COVID-19 restrictions — recorded 13 new cases on Thursday, with most in the Moncton region.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Health told Global News yesterday it continues to “closely monitor the COVID-19 epidemiology of neighbouring provinces, including New Brunswick, and are aware of a recent cluster of cases in Moncton.”

Strang reiterated this, and said that he was “well aware” of the Moncton cluster, which he pointed out is primarily among “young, non-immunized individuals.” He said the cluster is not a surprise, since the Delta variant tends to “take hold” in under-immunized populations.

He did note that he thought New Brunswick was “taking very active steps to control their situation.”

Click to play video: 'Amherst, N.S. has mixed feelings about neighbouring New Brunswick’s COVID-19 cases'
Amherst, N.S. has mixed feelings about neighbouring New Brunswick’s COVID-19 cases

As to whether Strang anticipated making vaccines mandatory for certain sectors, such as health care and education, he said legal and human rights issues would come into play.

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“Ultimately we need to give people some space to make decisions about their health care,” he said.

It was a similar response when asked whether the province would follow Quebec’s move in issuing vaccine passports.

“I remain concerned if not done very thoughtfully, something like a vaccine passport will further marginalize populations that are already marginalized in our communities,“ he said.

He added there is “lots to think about.”

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