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‘What are we holding on for?’: Pregnant Nova Scotian calls for COVID-19 vaccination priority

Nova Scotia has now received nearly half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and to date, about 75 per cent of those have been administered.

But there are still tens of thousands of Nova Scotians anxiously waiting their turn to get vaccinated.

At 33 weeks pregnant, Kentville resident Meghan Sabean is tired of waiting and has written a letter to provincial officials asking for pregnant women to be prioritized in the vaccine rollout.

“The data is showing there is a high risk for pregnant women if they fall ill to COVID-19,” she said.

As a woman in her early 30s, her age group is just weeks away from being eligible but if she lived in any other province she’d be eligible now.

“If everyone else around you has already stepped up to the plate, what are we holding on for?” she questions.

Read more:
Nova Scotia reports 118 new COVID-19 cases, thousands more now eligible for vaccines

Across the country, each province has had a different approach to their vaccine rollout, with many prioritizing various health conditions — but Nova Scotia has remained steadfast in its age-based rollout.

“I really have confidence that we made the right decision in prioritizing this rollout on an age-based approach,” said Health Minister Zach Churchill.

“There’s no shortage of groups — whether it’s related to their health condition, they’re pregnant, or employee status, where they work — that has a legitimate argument to be prioritized. And what other provinces have experienced is that it can create a more chaotic situation.”

Click to play video: Nova Scotians on track to having both vaccination shots by the fall

Churchill says in contrast, Nova Scotia’s system has allowed for a more orderly and reliable rollout.

“We’ve been able to vaccinate all regions of the province at the same rate to ensure that there’s equal access to this vaccine,” he said, adding that the province is vaccinating at a rate better than any other province.

Speed and efficiency. That’s how health officials have been touting Nova Scotia’s system for months.

“We got good, now we’re getting fast,” chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang has said numerous times at COVID-19 briefings.

On April 27, when asked about possibly switching up the rollout, Strang said they would not change the strategy because the province needs the “fastest strategy that will get the vaccine in people’s arms as quickly as possible.”

“We have shown in the last two to three weeks how rapidly we can progress through our age group following an age-based process,” said Strang.

It’s a message he hasn’t wavered from, but as Nova Scotia continues with its age-based approach, it’s falling behind, and younger Nova Scotians are waiting longer to get vaccinated.

This week Alberta opened up vaccine eligibility to all residents aged 12 and above. Quebec is opening up vaccine appointments to all adults this week and Ontario has plans to do the same by May 24.

Read more:
Alberta to begin booking COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 12+ by May 10

Nova Scotia just opened eligibility for those 40-plus this week and will continue moving down through age cohorts until all Nova Scotians are eligible sometime in June.

The province is also last in terms of doses administered per 100 people at just 38. P.E.I. sits second-last at 39, while the other provinces range between 40 and 46.

“The real difference from province to province isn’t necessarily speed, it’s how we’re doing it, who’s getting vaccinated and where,” said Churchill.

“People aren’t waiting in lines, they know what vaccine they’re signing up for, and we’re running ahead of schedule right now.”

Churchill said Nova Scotia’s system is proving to be reliable. While other provinces have been forced to cancel thousands of vaccine appointments due to supply issues, Nova Scotia has not.

“We’re not booking until all the vaccine supply has entered into the province.”

Churchill says as supply increases, the vaccination rollout in Nova Scotia will move faster and the province is still on track to have everyone receive their first vaccine by June, including those 12 and up who were recently approved for the Pfizer vaccine.

As for Sabean, she says overall she feels that Nova Scotia is handling the COVID-19 pandemic well and acknowledges that it is hard to determine what the best practices are for vaccine rollout with so many people wanting to be prioritized.

She says while she knows that every Nova Scotian will be receiving their first dose in just over a month, for pregnant women like her, the vaccine can’t come soon enough.

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