Nova Scotia’s general vaccination program is already underway–some people aged 80 and up started getting shots this week–but it’s really ramping up the March 15 week, with thousands more people becoming eligible and a whole new vaccine coming into play. And like Alexander Hamilton, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Robert Strang doesn't want anybody to throw away their shot. So we’ve put together five tips to help you, or somebody you’re helping, do a good job of the jab.
1. Find out when you’re eligible
Doctor Strang says it’s important that everyone wait their turn for a vaccine, but once their age group is eligible, they sign up post-haste. “Ultimately it’s an individual choice, but I would say: if you get an opportunity to get a vaccine, take it,” he said during a press conference last week.
On Monday, March 15, the site for booking a vaccination appointment opens to Nova Scotians aged 80+ whose birthday runs from May to August (joining those born January through April, whose shots started March 8). That means thousands more people will be able to sign up.
The next day, Tuesday, March 16, booking starts for the new-to-Nova Scotia AstraZeneca vaccine. To start, the site will only be open to Nova Scotians who are 63 or 64 years old, 13,o00 of whom will be able to register.
If you’re so inclined, you could spend the next few weeks researching the differences between the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, learning about which is best for you. But Strang says you shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to get any vaccine if it comes your way. “All the Covid vaccines provide good protection against symptomatic illness and good protection against severe disease,” he said on March 5.
Those who are part of some marginalized populations, such as Indigenous people and African Nova Scotians, can also get the vaccine in their communities. These groups, and immigrants who may need extra help, can contact their community leaders or ISANS for more information.
2. Book online if possible
Once you are eligible, the booking site is available online at nshealth.ca/coronavirusvaccine, and Strang has repeatedly said that’s the fastest way to book. “Even in seniors 80+, the vast number of appointments are being made online and we encourage people to do that,” he said at a briefing today.
Once on the website, you will have to enter an MSI number to confirm date of birth eligibility. You will be able to book both a first dose appointment, plus a second dose appointment for about 16 weeks down the road.
For those who don’t have an MSI card and/or lack computer access and/or may require extra help, a phone booking option is available by calling 1-833-797-7772. For more information on what documents you need if you don’t have an MSI card, scroll to the bottom of this page.
3. Get your jab!
If you’re booking for the near future, your appointment could be at any one of nine official vaccine locations or four pharmacy prototype clinics for those 80+, or one of the 25 community health clinics that are part of the trial period for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
People getting vaccinated are allowed to bring one support person with them, and most clinics ask you not to show up more than five minutes before the appointment to avoid having too many people in the small space. Once you’re vaccinated, the clinic will likely monitor you for about 15 minutes to ensure there are no immediate allergic reactions to the shot.
4. Reschedule if you miss your appointment
At today’s briefing, Strang said that you can rebook your vaccine online if you miss an appointment for whatever reason. And if you forget to book your appointment during the initial eligibility period–don’t worry, the registration portal will still let you in.
“As we roll this out, once you become eligible you’re always eligible,” Strang said. “Even if for some reason you’ve missed your opportunity initially when your group became eligible.” Public health is just opening the system in phases to avoid technical problems on its webpage, like the crash that occurred on day one.
5. Keep following public health protocols once vaccinated
While you may feel safe and secure after getting one or both shots, keep in mind that the vaccine hasn’t been around long enough to know whether you can still pass the virus on to others. Similar to the way that young, healthy people were asymptomatic spreaders last spring, vaccinated people could be unwittingly spreading the virus.
“We still don’t have conclusive answers on that,” Strang said today. ”So right now we have to say that people, even though they’re immunized, may still be able to transmit the virus–which has all kinds of implications for them. Even if you’re vaccinated you have to quarantine, wear a mask, all those kinds of pieces. Over the next few months I think we’ll get greater clarity.”
Vaccine or no, until the provincial population reaches about 75 percent vaccination rate–herd immunity, which should happen in Nova Scotia sometime this fall–masks and social distancing are destined to be the norm. And even after we’re all vaccinated, please don’t approach me in the grocery store.