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Nova Scotia’s vaccine rollout continues to have technical difficulties

The booking site went down on day one, when 500 people tried to load it at once.

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Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 plan is a hot topic of conversation. Who will get it, where, when and how? So it’s not surprising that when the vaccine registration website went live earlier this week for people 80+, a lot of people wanted to test it out.

But somehow the province was surprised. On day one, the website went down. Reporters were told in a technical briefing that health-tech firm CanImmunize estimated 250 people would try to load the site each second. In reality that number was double, with 500 people clicking per second.

The province says it’s still working to determine exactly what happened, but that it could’ve been bots trying to crack the site.

Barring that, it was most likely everyday citizens trying to register for the vaccine, just curious to see how the sign-up system works, or trying to see if they could beat the system. (Spoiler alert: You can’t beat the system because only Nova Scotians with an MSI number corresponding with an age of 80 or above are able to register.)

Top doc Robert Strang told the public to “be patient“ for their turn. And since the initial crash, the province has now implemented a waiting page that puts people in a queue to wait their turn.

The vaccine supply isn’t stalled anymore, though. The province is expecting over 10,000 doses of Moderna this week, most of which will be designated for long-term care homes. We’ll also get 13,000 doses of the new AstraZeneca vaccine, which, because it’s not approved for those over age 65, will be given to Nova Scotians aged 50-64.

New vaccine eligibility streams are soon opening up, including vaccination for healthcare workers who are 60+ who work in community settings. There are also more ways for Nova Scotians to get their vaccines coming, including at their pharmacy or family doctor.

The province says if all continues as planned, even young people will have a chance to be vaccinated by the end of September. - PROVINCE OF NOVA SCOTIA
  • Province of Nova Scotia
  • The province says if all continues as planned, even young people will have a chance to be vaccinated by the end of September.

The province has released a new, updated schedule for how all Nova Scotians will be vaccinated, working back in age increments of ten years, leading up to September when the province is projected to reach herd immunity of about 70 to 75 percent.

But there are a few things that could interfere with that plan. If we deviate too much from an age-based model–like we have to with the new AstraZeneca vaccine–if our vaccine supply dips, or, if we increase the time between doses–a decision that’s apparently imminent.

“What we’re expecting is a significant increase in the time frame between first dose and second dose,” Strang said Tuesday.

As soon as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization gives permission, Nova Scotia could soon be increasing the time between both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses to as long as four months, which British Columbia did earlier this week. This will allow more people to get their first dose faster and get fully vaccinated sooner once the supply levels out, but it will mean stretching past the end of that September goal.

And while Strang says the province is on track for vaccination, that doesn’t mean masks or social distancing will be going away any time soon, or that we’ll have cruise ships docking in the Halifax port and snowbirds travelling down south for the winter.

“We will still need some of the public health measures to stay in place even after September,” said Strang. “But by the time we get there we will be far better protected from the vaccine, and I think we’ll be able to look back and say each of us did our part to keep Nova Scotia safe during the pandemic.”

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