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Vaccine delays could mean dipping into second dose stockpile

An estimated 14,200 doses will be about a week late.


Earlier this week the Nova Scotia government announced its detailed plan to vaccinate everyone over age 16 who wants to be vaccinated by June. But there may already be a hitch in the plan.

“We did receive word last night that a shipment of Moderna expected next week will be delayed by a week or so,” said top doc Robert Strang on Friday, March 26 during his twice-weekly COVID-19 update with premier Iain Rankin.

Although Strang didn’t give the exact number that was supposed to be in the shipment, the department of health confirmed that the Moderna delivery was expected to be 14,200 doses the week of March 28.

“We’re trusting that the federal government is saying that they’ll be delayed actually less than a week,” said Strang Friday. “This happened late last night, I was calling and texting with my vaccine team, with [deputy minister] Tracey Barbrick at 11 o’clock last night. So it’s not ideal for us by any means but we don’t have control over vaccine supply and we have to adjust as best we can.”

To make up for the delay, Strang said the province will likely have to dip into its reserve of second doses, to meet the already-booked appointments for next week. “We still have some vaccine that has been held back for this week and next week for the second dose,” Strang said. “So what we’re doing is we’re shifting that second dose and using it for the first dose.”

As long as the shipment is only a week late and not delayed any further, Strang said it’s not a big deal. “But if we don’t get the delivery next week, then we’re going to run into some problems around the second dose piece.”

In that case, some people may end up having their second Moderna dose appointment delayed or cancelled until the province can acquire more vaccine shipment. “I’d much rather take the risk of a second dose than not allow us to continue to progress with our first dose in people’s arms,” said Strang.

But other vaccines are still on their way to the province, including an expected 38,000 doses of AstraZeneca due to arrive in early April.

“Our plan is to first offer this AstraZeneca vaccine to those age 60-64 that we’re currently offering it to, because many of them in that age group have not had an opportunity with our first shipment,” said Strang. “And we’ll expand from there depending on the uptake.”

Additionally, Strang said there have been over 20,000 doses in arms in the past four days. Strang says by mid-May the province will be delivering 86,000 doses of vaccines per week. Starting March 26, Nova Scotians aged 75 to 79 are able to book their appointments.

Strang said the deviation from the Moderna plan is minor at this point and happened last-minute, but also serves to reinforce why the province is only booking appointments in two-week blocks once vaccine shipments are secured.

“This highlights the importance of only opening appointments when our supply is confirmed,” said Strang. “We don’t want to have people book appointments and then have to cancel appointments because we didn’t have certainty of supply at the time of booking.”


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