New Brunswick bowling alleys turn into vaccination sites, as Atlantic region lobbies

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BATHURST, NB – Although the lanes are closed, Lynn Vienneau hopes the New Brunswick Bowlarama she manages will be packed on Thursday.

The Bowlarama in Bathurst, New Brunswick, is one of six sites in the province that will turn into a COVID-19 vaccination clinic this week. Vienneau said she hopes offering the snaps in a familiar location will encourage more people to roll up their sleeves.

“This lady who was very hesitant, (who is) a frequent customer here, said she was coming Thursday for the shot,” Vienneau said in an interview on Tuesday. “And she was right about that.”

New Brunswick has the lowest first-dose vaccination rate in Atlantic Canada, but the province has the highest rate of people considered fully vaccinated in the region, according to COVID-19 Tracker Canada, a website managed by volunteers who compile data published by federal and provincial health authorities. The provincial government hopes its mobile clinics will help convince more people to get vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, nearly 79 percent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and over had received at least one dose of the vaccine. In the rest of Atlantic Canada, first dose rates are over 80%. And at nearly 42 percent, New Brunswick has the highest rate of fully vaccinated people over 12 years of age in the region, roughly equivalent to the national rate.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 83.2% of residents over the age of 12 received at least one dose, compared to a national rate of 78%. But data from COVID-19 Tracker Canada shows that only 24.8% of residents of this province aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated, which is the lowest rate in the country.

In Prince Edward Island, 83 percent of people aged 12 and over have received a dose, and 26 percent of Islanders are fully immunized – the second lowest rate in the country. COVID-19 Tracker Canada also shows that 82 percent of Nova Scotians aged 12 and older have received at least one dose, while 33 percent are fully vaccinated.

Noni MacDonald, a vaccine specialist and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Dalhousie University School of Medicine, said it was crucial to consider the context in which each of Atlantic Canada’s four governments operate.

“It was never going to be one size fits all,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador did not experience many outbreaks in long-term care homes and, as a result, extended the time between doses to 3.5 months and four months, respectively, MacDonald said. New Brunswick, however, has struggled with several outbreaks in long-term care homes throughout the pandemic, and the province has focused on fully vaccinating these populations as quickly as possible, a- she added.

Newfoundland and Labrador also faces a huge geographic challenge, she said, noting that there are many small, hard-to-reach communities spread across a large region. Putting together a program for such a large and sparsely populated province is “very complex,” MacDonald said.

Hannah Wallace, a doctoral student in Memorial University School of Medicine, said she was “a little” concerned that some Atlantic provinces have been slower than other parts of the country to administer the second doses. His concern stems from the presence of the Delta coronavirus variant, which has been identified nationwide and is believed to be at least 1.5 times more contagious than the mutation first identified in the UK

“I’m not that worried because we haven’t lifted the restrictions like in other places in Canada,” Wallace said in an interview Tuesday.

“We still have the mask warrants, we still apply physical distancing as much as possible. And these things are really going to keep us safe until we hit that upper limit of people getting their second vaccine. “

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 6, 2021.

– By Sarah Smellie in St. John’s.


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