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First New Brunswick vaccinations begin at nursing home in Miramichi

MIRAMICHI, N.B. — New Brunswick started its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Saturday with the inoculation of an 84-year-old nursing home resident who said needles don't bother her in the least.

MIRAMICHI, N.B. — New Brunswick started its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Saturday with the inoculation of an 84-year-old nursing home resident who said needles don't bother her in the least.

Pauline Gauvin, an 84-year-old resident of Shannex Losier Hall in Miramichi, was the province's first recipient of the vaccine.

Gauvin told the health worker who provided the injection she felt comfortable with having the shot, and, after asking what her next step in the process was, Gauvin was informed she could go back to the waiting area.

"(I'll) go mix with the crowd," she said, smiling. 

Later in the afternoon, in a telephone interview, she explained she's had many vaccinations over the course of her life and was quite used to them.

"I've been having needles in my arm all my life," she said from her room at the care home, recalling vaccinations against the measles.

"When I went to school, I had to have a needle. Everywhere you went, you had to have a needle ... It's part of growing up."

The former employee of NB Tel and the Dominion grocery store chain is a mother of four daughters, one of whom is Charlene Shaddick, the business manager at the Shannex residence.

"I think it's pretty special. We're pretty lucky," said Shaddick, as she sat close to her mother.

New Brunswick is the last province in the country to begin its vaccination campaign.

It plans to inoculate 1,950 people with their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, to be followed by a second shot three weeks later.

Dr. Carl Boucher, an emergency physician who received the vaccine on Saturday, had traveled on his day off from Caraquet, N.B., where he works at the Hopital de l'Enfant-Jesus.

"It feels like the start of the light at the end of the tunnel," the 37-year-old emergency physician said in a telephone interview.

"We need to show the general public that health-care workers and doctors are behind this vaccination."

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health for the province, toured the medical facility where the vaccinations were occurring and met people receiving their shots. 

She estimated more than 150 people were involved in providing the shots over the weekend, ranging from people directing traffic to people providing the shots.

"It definitely is a historic moment," she said.

The public health doctor said there will be priority given to long-term care residents and health workers in the first weeks in New Brunswick.

She said it's expected that seven different vaccines will be available over the year to come.

"We expect 60 to 70 per cent of the province's population will be vaccinated by September (2021)," she said.

"It probably won't be until we get more of the different vaccines in larger quantities that we can move down the list of priority groups ... and that will probably all happen between July and September."

The province has accepted an offer from the owner of a bluefin tuna exporting company in eastern Prince Edward Island for a loan of two freezers that can store the first vaccine, which has to be kept below -70 C.

Russell said protocols are now in place to collect information on any adverse reactions to the vaccination, and she said she expects that information will be made public in New Brunswick.

"We're making sure there is a very rigid process for reporting any adverse events and making sure that data is captured and provided," she said.

Meanwhile, New Brunswick reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing its total active cases to 49.

Nova Scotia had two new cases, but its overall number of active cases has dropped to 46. 

In Newfoundland and Labrador there were eight new cases reported on Saturday, bringing total active cases in the province to 31.

In Prince Edward Island, one positive case was confirmed on Saturday, bringing the total number of active cases to seven.

— Story written in Halifax by Michael Tutton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2020.

The Canadian Press