Dentists, pharmacists in Nova Scotia ready to aid with COVID-19 vaccine rollout

As Nova Scotia rolls out its largest and most complex vaccination program in province’s history, health and emergency agencies like Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency are ready to mobilize when called upon.

“We’re here, we’re ready,” said Allison Bodnar, CEO of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.

“If you want us to help mobilize, we’ll help mobilize tomorrow.”

At its peak and in phase two of the vaccination program this summer, the province is looking to vaccinate upwards of 10,000 people per day against the novel coronavirus.

Read more: Nova Scotia releases phased plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

The details of the province’s vaccine rollout plan were introduced Tuesday during a COVID-19 technical briefing for media.

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The vaccination plan has three phases and will look to then inoculate 75 percent of the eligible population against COVID-19 by the end of summer which is monumental task and will require extensive planning to administer the more than one million doses.

Just getting the vaccine by bulk into Nova Scotia and spreading it across the province is a big task on its own, public health is leading the vaccine rollout but it’s anticipated they’ll need help in the second phase to meet its goal of inoculating thousands of Nova Scotians each day.

Bodnar says this is where the trained pharmacists can be of some assistance if needed and they have the numbers to help, with roughly 100 pharmacy technicians working in across the province, with a thousand or more pharmacists trained to vaccinate.

“We have a large human resource pool and very skilled,” said Bodnar. “We have been doing a high volume of flu shots in pharmacies.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Experts call for quick roll-out as COVID-19 vaccines sit in freezers' 1:46 Coronavirus: Experts call for quick roll-out as COVID-19 vaccines sit in freezers

Coronavirus: Experts call for quick roll-out as COVID-19 vaccines sit in freezers

This flu season alone, Bodnar points out that the pharmacy association helped administer more than 85,000 flu shots during the first two weeks of October and so getting upwards of 10,00 COVID-19 shots delivered in a day is possible.

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Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency deputy chief Dave Meldrum says they are willing to help if called upon, noting they’ve already partnered with Nova Scotia Health to help administer rapid COVID-19 tests at pop-up clinics in the Halifax area.

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“We’ve had some informal-internal conversations and we’d like to be involved if we were wanted,” said Meldrum. “If approached by Public Health we’d engage with our firefighter’s union and discuss what levels of  training and what sort of preparations would be required for us to contribute to that plan.”

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency have more than 430 professional firefighters and other unionized members along with a team of more than 500 volunteer firefighters who bring a unique skill set and desire to help said, Meldrum

“Our firefighters attend about 2,800 medical emergency calls last year,” said Meldrum. “So they are familiar with a lot of concepts around patient care, or infection prevention and disinfection and personal protective equipment.”

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday

The Dental Association of Nova Scotia has already met with the Minister of Health said president Dr. Chad Avery, he suggested that the dentists could be of some assistance if called upon as they are trained in inoculation practices.

“I do think that dentists are fairly well-trained and positioned to help in the assistance of administering vaccines if necessary,” said Avery. ” The obvious part of that is that we perform injections on patients on a daily basis and we’re well-equipped to deal with any of the potential side effects, as well as infection control issues.”

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One of the biggest challenges will be not wasting any vaccine, says Bodnar. Once thawed the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine has a five-day shelf life, while the Moderna vaccine once thawed can last 25 days.

“This is really a logistics issue,” says Bodnar, regarding the vaccine rollout. “How do you get limited amounts of the vaccine to the places it needs to be without wastage?”

Click to play video 'N.S. released details of its mass immunization plan' 2:02 N.S. released details of its mass immunization plan

N.S. released details of its mass immunization plan

Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson Marla MacInnis says the province is starting to plan for the second phase of the vaccine rollout but its main focus right now remains on implementing phase one of the plan.

“Our main focus is on the next 30 days of the vaccine delivery, with the vaccine that we have available to us, said MacInnis.

“Before vaccination clinics open to the general public, we need to ensure we have adequate vaccine supply and that storage, transportation and delivery processes and clinic models have been tested and confirmed.”

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