FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government released its updated COVID-19 vaccination plan today, providing additional details and timelines.

“We remain committed to ensuring all New Brunswickers who want the vaccine will be able to access it as quickly as possible,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “Our vaccine plan will allow us to accomplish this goal.”

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said that under the plan, there may be a longer delay between the first and second doses beyond the recommended 28 days for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. She said this will allow a greater number of New Brunswickers to be protected from the virus in a timely manner.

“We will delay the second dose for those who are at lower risk of severe outcomes, while giving the two-dose schedule on time for the most vulnerable,” said Russell. “Everyone will get the second dose.”

“This decision is supported by research, as we have learned that a single dose of these vaccines offers more than 90 per cent protection, starting 14 days after inoculation,” she said. “While we may delay the second dose, our objective will be to administer it as soon as we can, while keeping to our goal of maximizing the number of vulnerable people receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.”

The rollout of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan began in December. The plan focuses on first immunizing those who are most vulnerable, including long-term care residents and staff, frontline health-care staff, First Nations adults, and individuals 85 and over. During Phase 1, which is ongoing, more than 21,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered. To date 7,505 people have been fully vaccinated.

“This plan protects the health and wellness of New Brunswickers and also minimizes the impact of outbreaks in institutions like long-term care facilities and hospitals,” said Russell.

Phase 2, starting in April, will expand vaccinations to additional vulnerable groups, including:

  • residents and staff in other communal settings;
  • health-care workers providing direct patient care such as pharmacists and dentists;

first responders such as firefighters and police officers;

  • home support workers for seniors;
  • individuals 70 and over;
  • individuals with select complex medical conditions;
  • volunteers at long-term care centres and designated support people;
  • individuals 40 and over with three or more select chronic conditions; and
  • truckers, rotational workers and regular cross-border work commuters.

“We are confident this plan is the best way to ensure vulnerable residents are protected in a timely manner, while also addressing delays in vaccine shipments,” said Shephard. “If more vaccine doses are made available to us by the federal government, we will readjust our vaccination plan.”

Phase 3, starting in June, will expand to groups including:

  • health-care workers with indirect patient care;
  • people with two or more select chronic health conditions;
  • school staff; and
  • students between the ages of 16 and 24.

In Phase 4, which is expected to begin in July, the vaccine will be more widely available for all New Brunswickers.

More details will be shared in the coming weeks about how people in the identified groups can register to receive the vaccine.

The province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is based on scientific evidence, as well as expert advice and guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and from Public Health officials in the province.

Zone 4 moving to Orange level

Zone 4 (Edmundston region) will move to the Orange level effective at midnight tonight under the province’s mandatory order.

Public Health recommended the move due to the stabilization of the number of daily cases, no new unlinked chains of transmission and adequate resourcing for the health-care system.

All other zones remain in the Orange level under the province’s mandatory order.

Four new cases

Public Health reported four new cases of COVID-19 today.

The four cases in Zone 4 (Edmundston region) are as follows:

  • an individual 19 and under;
  • two people 60-69; and
  • an individual 80-89.

The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1,411. Since yesterday, 11 people have recovered for a total of 1,275 recoveries. There have been 24 deaths, and the number of active cases is 111. Five patients are hospitalized, and one is in intensive care. Yesterday, 1,002 tests were conducted for a total of 220,912.