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Health Minister not yet clear how many vaccine doses P.E.I. will receive

Health Minister James Aylward said vulnerable populations will be prioritized in the first wave of vaccinations of the COVID-19 virus. This will include front-line healthcare workers.
Health Minister James Aylward said vulnerable populations will be prioritized in the first wave of vaccinations of the COVID-19 virus. This will include front-line healthcare workers. - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Health Minister James Aylward said he cannot say with certainty how many doses of a COVID-19 vaccine P.E.I. will receive once it receives Health Canada approval.

However, he said the first people to receive the vaccine will be front-line health-care workers and vulnerable populations.

On Wednesday, officials with the government of Ontario said that province expects to receive 2.4 million doses of a federal order of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, while Alberta has announced it plans to receive close to 700,000 combined doses of both vaccines. Pfizer has completed its Phase 3 study of its vaccine and has determined it is 95 per cent effective.

During question period on Thursday, Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald pressed Aylward for specifics of the roll-out plan for the vaccine on P.E.I.

"How many doses are earmarked for Prince Edward Island. Are you confident we possess the necessary storage and logistical measures to store the vaccines?" MacDonald asked?

"I think it's important that many Islanders understand who is going to get it first, when is it going to arrive, how much did we secure as a province?”

Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald, shown in the P.E.I. legislature, pressed Health Minister James Aylward on Thursday for specifics on the province's plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. - Stu Neatby/The Guardian
Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald, shown in the P.E.I. legislature, pressed Health Minister James Aylward on Thursday for specifics on the province's plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. - Stu Neatby/The Guardian

In response, Aylward said P.E.I. expects to receive its first shipments of the vaccines within the first three months of 2021.

"It's a national initiative that we're working with the federal government on. Each province, according to their population will be provided with a certain percentage of the vaccines," Aylward said.

"Until we know the exact qualification and the verification through Health Canada, we can't actually state exactly how many units will come to P.E.I."

In an interview, however, Aylward said health staff in P.E.I., under the COVID Immunization group, is working to determine how many doses of the vaccine the province will need. This will be based on a tally of vulnerable populations.

"We're identifying those groups that are the most vulnerable, whether it be long-term care residents, whether it be First Nations' populations. We're considering our frontline health-care workers to be essential as well," Aylward said.

Aylward also said public health officials say storage capacity for the vaccines at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Prince County Hospital is “very good.”.

The Pfizer vaccines will need to be stored at -70 C, while the Moderna vaccine will need to be stores at -20 C.

The distribution of the vaccine will occur in two phases. The first phase, which will be administered by the Chief Public Health Office, will focus on these vulnerable populations. The second phase, which will involve pharmacies, will involve vaccinating all who want access to receive it, Aylward said.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested these efforts could involve the Canadian Armed Forces, Aylward said he has had no discussions with the military about vaccine distribution in P.E.I.

Aylward added he has written to federal Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay to request co-operation of nurses who have begun working with that department, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.*

*A previous version of this article stated Health Minister James Aylward has requested co-operation of nurses employed by Veterans Affairs Canada for assistance with vaccine distribution in the future. The letter asked for assistance in relation to a possible COVID-19 surge.

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