At Friday's COVID-19 briefing, doc Robert Strang said “there have been no requests” from Ontario for Nova Scotia’s vaccine allotment. COMMUNICATIONS NOVA SCOTIA
At Friday's COVID-19 briefing, doc Robert Strang said “there have been no requests” from Ontario for Nova Scotia’s vaccine allotment. COMMUNICATIONS NOVA SCOTIA

NS won’t divert vaccines to Ontario but could help in other ways

There’s been no call for help yet, and doctor Strang says any request won’t be considered until we receive it.

A press release this morning from the Canadian Medical Association included an “urgent call” for measures that address the increasing COVID-19 caseload in several provinces. Among the suggestions was that of “province-to-province collaboration” on resources—specifically vaccines. And while the CMA doesn’t name any provinces that should give up their vaccines, it’s pretty clear the release is aimed at Atlantic Canada, which has the lowest infection rate in the country.

“We act as one country when crisis hits with wildfires, floods and other tragedies. This pandemic has reached a new level that requires a national response,” says CMA president doctor Ann Collins in the release. “We must do everything needed to avoid making unbearable choices as to who lives if resources are not available.”

The recipient of these doses would presumably be Ontario, which reported a record 4,736 new cases yesterday, April 15. The federal government made a similar move back in February, when 2,900 doses from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were shipped to Northern Canada to isolated communities dealing with COVID outbreaks.

But so far, the Nova Scotia government says no official request has been made by Ontario’s government, or any other province.

“There’s a formal process that was established during H1N1, a memorandum of agreement of mutual aid, and there have been no requests come to Nova Scotia through that form of agreement at this time,” said provincial chief medical officer of health Robert Strang during Friday’s regular COVID update with premier Iain Rankin.

“We don’t have any indication that that’s going to take place,” added Rankin. “We expect the volume as it’s been committed to us.”

If a request was made, Rankin said the province likely wouldn’t consider sending along vaccine supply until the province of Ontario implements stricter public health measures. “When I talked to doctor Strang it looks like there’s a myriad of different tools that provinces can use,” he said. “The tools that we used very early on to suppress the spread of COVID-19, so we would expect other provinces to do that as well.”

  Ontario premier Doug Ford held a press conference of his own later in the day, where he announced some of the measures Nova Scotians remember from a year ago, including shutting down outdoor recreation areas like playgrounds, basketball courts and soccer fields; restricting inter-provincial travel; and banning outdoor gatherings of multiple households.

Ontario also extended its state of emergency and stay-at-home orders, and introduced a street check law that allows police to question people about their reason for being out in public. With his province setting another record today with 4,812 new cases, Ford said he had “few options left.”

Back in Nova Scotia, Rankin said another reason not to send doses was that the volume of vaccines the province could spare would only be “a drop in the bucket” for a place as large as Ontario.

Doctor Strang says there are “other ways that Ontario might reach out for help,” but when asked what those were, Strang only gave examples of what we couldn’t do. He said the province wouldn’t be able to import patients from areas with high COVID activity because our hospitals were already full.

“Our health system is full, the Halifax Infirmary is at full capacity, ‘cause because of our good epidemiology we’ve been able to open up all the other aspects of health care to Nova Scotians,” he said.

How can Nova Scotia help, then? Rankin says one thing we can do is provide PPE, but not until it’s requested.

“If there are some other supplies or resources they require, I think we’d be more flexible on that,” he said. “I think Nova Scotians would actually volunteer to step up to help. We don’t have an official ask of any type right now.”

Strang added “we’d have to wait until we got a specific request, and then work that through our health system here.”

Another consideration would be exporting our doctors and nurses to other provinces. “We’d have to have a specific request and that would be worked through by the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK to see what was possible, and also were there people willing to do that,” Strang said.

While Strang seemed open to an SOS from Ontario, Rankin said if asked for vaccines, he would deny the request. That is a safe political stance for a new premier trying to prove he can lead a traditionally “have-not” province that for once has something needed by the rest of the country.

“Things can change very quickly in any province,” he said. “So I think it’s incumbent on us to make sure that we say to the federal government that we expect to get our vaccine.”

About The Author

Victoria Walton

Once a freelancer, Victoria has been a full-time reporter with The Coast since April 2020, covering everything from COVID-19 to small business to politics and social justice. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College School of Journalism in 2017.

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