“Many of the cases we’re seeing now are in unvaccinated children, we can put a stop to that,” premier Tim Houston said.
“Many of the cases we’re seeing now are in unvaccinated children, we can put a stop to that,” premier Tim Houston said.

COVID-19 round-up: More AstraZeneca for NS, a St. FX cluster and an extended Christmas holiday

And the province is expanding booster shot eligibility in the new year.

The province has been making the Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine available to some mandated public workers who refused an mRNA vaccine, top doc Robert Strang said, and has ordered a small amount of AstraZeneca doses for others who are refusing Moderna or Pfizer.

“In my mind it’s not a great choice to be refusing an mRNA for a viral vector vaccine,” the chief medical officer of health said during Tuesday’s COVID briefing with the premier. Doctor Strang asked that people think twice about the choice, given that both Pfizer and Moderna are more effective at preventing infection and serious illness.

“This is for people who are saying they’d rather be unvaccinated than go for an mRNA vaccine,” Strang said.

The province’s 250-dose supply of Johnson and Johnson has quietly been offered to those in the public sector who said they would not accept a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. “If (public sector workers) were saying, ‘I’m not going to get vaccinated’ and refuse an mRNA vaccine, well it’s better they get a Johnson and Johnson (shot) that provides good protection though it’s not as good as mNRA, but it allows them to be back in the workforce,” Strang said.

The chief medical officer said there are still doses remaining from the 250-shot shipment, though he doesn’t know how many, and an unknown amount of AstraZeneca shots will be sent to Nova Scotia. He expects demand for viral vector shots is low.

Third shots spreading

In the new year, booster doses of COVID vaccine will be made available to Nova Scotians 50 and older, as well as frontline health care workers. From there eligibility will drop down by 10-year age cohorts. Currently Nova Scotians over 70 or who are immunocompromised are eligible for an additional shot or booster.

Vaxxing children

Of the about 65,000 kids between 5 and 11 in Nova Scotia, 29,000 of them (45.6 percent) have signed up for a vaccine appointment or have received a first dose. At today’s briefing, premier Tim Houston thanked parents for booking their children's vax appointments at such a high pace in the first week of eligibility.

“Many of the cases we’re seeing now are in unvaccinated children, we can put a stop to that,” Houston said.

“To help,” the province is extending the upcoming holiday break by two days so schools will resume on Jan 6. The request to extend the break came from the department of education, Houston said. Strang says the plan makes sense from a public health standpoint because it offers more time for exposure and illness to be detected before heading back to class.

COVID campus cluster

Nova Scotia reported 22 new cases of COVID today, with 18 in the Central zone and four in the Northern zone. A Northern zone cluster described last week is winding down, Strang said, but a new cluster in the same region is expected to grow following new cases tied to St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. The first cases were reported last night and Strang is expecting more to be reported in the coming days.

“I think there’s the ring ceremony, and there’s both sanctioned and informal social events. Anybody knows what happens around that… that’s part of what we’re looking at,” Strang said. So far in the early investigation it appears all official events adhered to public health guidelines, he said.

The premier had tough words for those who hosted events that did not follow gathering restrictions.

“To those establishments that may have been hosting those events, if you weren’t following the rules, we’re going to find you and we’re going to fine you,” Houston said.

“My message to people that were in Antigonish that weekend, if you hosted an event where you weren’t checking for vaccination or weren’t following the rules, it’s time to stick your hand up and reach out to public health.”

About The Author

Lyndsay Armstrong

Lyndsay is a city reporter covering all things Halifax, health and COVID-19. She is a data journalist who has covered provincial politics for allNovaScotia.com and represented Nova Scotia in a national investigation into lead in drinking water with the Toronto Star and Global.

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