N.B. bowling alleys turn into vaccination sites, as Atlantic region pushes for shots
BATHURST, N.B. — Though the lanes will be closed, Lynn Vienneau is hoping the New Brunswick Bowlarama she manages will be packed Thursday.
The Bowlarama in Bathurst, N.B., is one of six sites across the province that will transform into a COVID-19 vaccination clinic this week. Vienneau said she hopes offering the shots in a familiar place will encourage more people to roll up their sleeves.
“This lady that was very hesitant, (who is) a frequent customer here, said she’s going to come on Thursday and get her vaccine,” Vienneau said in an interview Tuesday. “And she was right against it.”
New Brunswick has Atlantic Canada’s lowest first-dose vaccination rate but the province is home to the region’s highest rate of people considered fully vaccinated, according to COVID-19 Tracker Canada, a website run by volunteers who compile data released 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 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and older had received at least one dose of vaccine. In the rest of Atlantic Canada, rates of first doses are above 80 per cent. And at nearly 42 per cent, New Brunswick has the highest rate of fully vaccinated people over the age of 12 in the region, which roughly equals the national rate.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, 83.2 per cent of residents over 12 have received at least one dose, compared with a national rate of 78 per cent. But COVID-19 Tracker Canada data shows just 24.8 per cent of residents in that province aged 12 and up were fully vaccinated, which is the lowest rate in the country.
In Prince Edward Island, 83 per cent of those aged 12 and older have had one dose, and 26 per cent of Islanders are fully vaccinated — the second-lowest rate in the country. COVID-19 Tracker Canada also shows 82 per cent of Nova Scotians aged 12 and up have received at least one dose, while 33 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Noni MacDonald, a vaccine specialist and professor in the pediatrics department at Dalhousie University’s medical school, said it’s crucial to consider the context that each of the four Atlantic Canadian governments is operating.
“It was never going to be one size fits all,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t have many outbreaks at long-term care homes, and as a result, extended the period between doses to 3.5 months and four months, respectively, MacDonald said. New Brunswick, however, grappled with several outbreaks at long-term care homes throughout the pandemic, and the province focused on getting those populations fully vaccinated as quickly as possible, she added.
Newfoundland and Labrador also has a massive challenge with its geography, she said, noting there are many small, tough-to-access communities spread across a vast area. Putting together a program for a province so large and sparsely populated is “very complex,” MacDonald said.
Hannah Wallace, a PhD student at Memorial University’s medical school, said she’s “a bit” concerned that some of the Atlantic provinces have been slower than other parts of the country to administer second doses. Her concern stems from the presence of the Delta coronavirus variant, which has been identified across the country and is believed to be at least 1.5 times more contagious than the mutation first identified in the U.K.
“I’m not so concerned because we haven’t lifted restrictions like other places in Canada have,” Wallace said in an interview Tuesday.
“We still have the mask mandates, we’re still implementing physical distancing as much as possible. And those things are really going to keep us safe until we get to that upper limit of people getting their second vaccine.”