Canada

Answer your phone — it may be a vaccine calling

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As Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new travel-related case in the Western Region, Health Minister Dr. John Haggie says regional health authorities (RHAs) have risen to the challenge of ramping up vaccinations, considering one-third of the province’s total expected doses have all arrived in the span of a week.

“We’ve seen over a third of our entire vaccine allotment arrive within the past seven days, and I think the RHAs are doing a really good job at getting it out there promptly,” he told reporters Wednesday.

The weekly COVID-19 briefing — which Haggie attended in person for the first time in three months — came a day after the province decided to list vaccination rates daily.

Haggie said the numbers will represent a 24-hour lag in actual injections to make sure rural areas have a change to register their tallies.

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Vaccine shipment arrivals will still be posted weekly, every Monday, along with the number of expected shipments over the ensuing seven days.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the regional health authorities can usually deliver expected doses within a week of their arrival, but must readjust when unexpected doses arrive, as happened with 20,000 doses on the weekend.

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“When an unexpected shipment arrives, regional health authorities move to action as fast as possible to plan for distribution,” she said.

“We are grateful for every single dose that arrives, whether expected or unexpected.”

Haggie said Eastern Health has run into a small problem when it comes to booking vaccine appointments for those who have preregistered.

“One of the challenges they’ve experienced is people seem to be reluctant to answer their phones when called, and it may well be that this is a no-caller-ID or private number, or a number they simply don’t recognize,” he said.

He said about 600 people have not answered after three attempts, but the authority will keep trying.

“You will not be forgotten.”

Anyone over 70 who has preregistered will be contacted by April 23, he said, but a mechanism will be put in place to accommodate those who fall through the cracks as vaccination priorities move on.

As for those that are housebound, Haggie advised they should make that known to the health authority when they are contacted.

AstraZeneca doses that arrive in the province are being offered through ad hoc clinics to anyone in the 55-64 age range, as federal advisers have recommended not given it to younger adults while researchers investigate rare instances of blood clots that have happened in Europe.

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Public Health says the risk is extremely low for those older than 55.

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Western Health and Central Health have already scheduled extra clinics, and Eastern Health gave notification Wednesday evening of clinics in its area. Eastern Health’s schedule of AstraZeneca clinics is viewable online at http://www.easternhealth.ca/news.

Haggie said this represents a “parallel stream” of inoculations, as groups identified as priorities in the second round are earmarked for either the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines.

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