FREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick have decided that people who are less at risk for severe complications from COVID-19 can wait up to 90 days to get a second vaccine dose.
With variants of the novel coronavirus circulating in New Brunswick, the focus should be on rapidly vaccinating as many people as possible with at least one dose, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Thursday.
"This is not a perfect approach, but action is required," Russell told reporters in Fredericton.
Russell said the most vulnerable will continue to receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines within 28 days of the first one. She said others will have to wait longer.
"Some Canadian jurisdictions are now waiting for 42 days or more," Russell said. "Some countries are waiting for up to 90 days. Our goal will be to administer the second dose as soon as we can, but certainly within 90 days."
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said officials are confident the updated plan is the best way to ensure vulnerable residents are protected in a timely manner while also addressing delays in vaccine shipments.
"Even a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine provides more than 90 per cent protection 14 days after receiving the shot," she said. "Delaying the second dose is a strategy that has been recommended by public health to ensure as many people as possible are protected."
So far, more than 21,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the province and over 7,500 people have received a second dose. The first phase of vaccinations targeted long-term care residents and staff, front-line health-care workers, First Nations adults and people over the age of 85.
The next phase, starting in April, expands access to groups such as pharmacists and dentists, first responders, home support workers and people over the age of 70.
Shephard said the province remains committed to ensuring all New Brunswickers who want a COVID-19 vaccine can receive one as quickly as possible.
Officials reported four new cases of COVID-19 Thursday — all in the Edmundston area, in the northwest of the province. The Edmundston region will move to the "orange" pandemic-alert level Thursday night, joining the rest of the province.
New Brunswick has 111 active reported cases of COVID-19 and has five patients in hospital with the disease, including one in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press