Coronavirus (COVID-19): vaccine

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan and vaccine rollout to help protect us against COVID-19. The plan includes 3 phases. Each phase identifies when different groups can receive the vaccine.

Vaccines help protect you from viruses and bacteria that cause illnesses. They also protect everyone around you. The more people in a community who are vaccinated and protected from COVID-19, the harder it is for the virus to spread. COVID-19 vaccines must be approved for use by Health Canada.

COVID-19 immunization plan

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan includes 3 phases. Each phase identifies when different groups can receive the vaccine. The plan is flexible to allow for increases or decreases in vaccine supply. Every person in Nova Scotia who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will receive it for free.

As vaccine supply increases, access to the vaccine will also increase. Everyone who wants to get the vaccine should have the first dose by the end of June 2021. Learn more: map of vaccine clinics in development (PDF).

Vaccine will be provided through:

  • healthcare worker clinics
  • long-term care clinics
  • community clinics
  • pharmacy clinics
  • primary care provider clinics
  • First Nation clinics in Mi’kmaw communities
  • outreach clinics
  • mobile clinics

As part of the planning process, work is underway to explore how to work with primary care providers (doctors) to see how vaccine can be provided to Nova Scotians in the community through these professionals. Providers will need to follow strict temperature and storage requirements. The planning process also looks at different ways to support mass immunization like community clinics.

The planning process also includes working with African Nova Scotian communities during Phase 1 to understand the needs of the community.

Prototype clinics

Before broadly rolling out clinics and vaccine delivery across the province, Public Health will host prototype clinics. Prototype clinics will help inform how clinics need to be set up and operate throughout the province as vaccine supply increases.

Prototype clinics that have been set up include:

  • community-based clinics for seniors who are 80 and older and live in the community
  • First Nations clinics in Mi’kmaw communities for people who are 55 and older
  • provider-based clinics in pharmacies for seniors who are 80 and older

Vaccine considerations

Each vaccine has different rules on how you can move and store the vaccine. Nova Scotia's COVID-19 immunization plan looks at:

  • when and where the vaccine supply is delivered and moved within the province
  • specialized equipment needed to move and store the vaccine
  • what COVID-19 activity looks like in the province
  • National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidance on the use of the vaccine
  • guidance from the vaccine manufacturer on how each vaccine can be used
  • recommendations on who should receive the vaccine
  • who can receive the vaccine based on age

Learn more: recommendation on the use of COVID-19 vaccine (National Advisory Committee on Immunization).

Review and changes

The COVID-19 immunization plan will be reviewed as national guidance, epidemiology and vaccine supply changes.

Approved vaccines

Three vaccines, Pfizer BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, are approved for use in Canada. These vaccines are given in 2 doses, 105 days apart. The province may receive other brands of COVID-19 vaccine as they’re approved for use by Health Canada.

Each vaccine has different recommendations on who can receive it and different levels of efficacy.

Learn more: Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine

Learn more: Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Learn more: AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca vaccine

6 April 2021 – Health Canada has issued a label change and guidance on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, following European reports of rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets after immunization with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. To date, no cases of these events have been reported in Canada.

Health Canada will be issuing additional terms and conditions requiring AstraZeneca manufacturers to conduct a detailed assessment of the benefits and risks of the vaccine by age and sex in the Canadian context. This information, along with further international evidence, will be used to determine if additional regulatory actions are necessary.

In the interim, all of Canada’s chief medical officers of health are following the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendation for an immediate pause in the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in all people who are under 55 years old in Canada at this time while investigations are ongoing.  People who are 55 and older may still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine. In Nova Scotia, a limited supply of AstraZeneca is currently being offered to people who are 55 to 64.

If you did not have unusual reactions after getting vaccinated with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, there’s no cause for concern. You should consult your healthcare provider in the rare event that you develop an unusual reaction after being vaccinated with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. You should call 911 or seek immediate health care if you develop shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision and skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination), especially if it happens between 4 and 20 days after vaccination. If this happens, tell the health care provider that you were vaccinated with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Decisions on the type of second dose that will be offered to people who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca will be determined based on the latest evidence and research. To help people stay up to date on recommendations for AstraZeneca and make an informed decision before getting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, more information is available from Health Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the European Medicines Agency. Updates include:

Supply and distribution

The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Nova Scotia on 15 December 2020. Nova Scotia expects to receive small weekly shipments of vaccine until the end of March 2021. Starting in April 2021, Nova Scotia expects to receive increased amounts of vaccine in each shipment.

When vaccine arrives in Nova Scotia it is distributed to cold storage sites. There are 10 cold storage sites across the province – Amherst, Antigonish, Bridgewater, Cape Breton, Dartmouth, Halifax, Kentville, Truro and Yarmouth.

Getting the vaccine

The vaccine will be available throughout 3 phases. Those who are not eligible to receive the vaccine in phase 1 or 2 will receive the vaccine based on age. Most Nova Scotians will receive their vaccine by age group (groups are in five-year increments).

Ten community-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics are open across the province. When you can book an appointment is based on your age.

Other than age, considerations for when you can receive the vaccine include:

  • recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization
  • who is at the highest risk based on the epidemiology in Nova Scotia
  • vaccine supply

Some Nova Scotians may not be able to receive the vaccine because of age or health condition. As more information about the vaccine becomes available, information about who can receive the vaccine may change. You should consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any concerns about receiving the vaccine. Learn more: who should and shouldn’t get the vaccine.

Ten community-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics are open across the province. When you can book an appointment is based on your age.

First Nations will host their own COVID-19 vaccination clinics in 13 Mi’kmaw communities across the province. People who live in the 13 communities will be able to receive their vaccine at a local health centre within each community. The Government of Nova Scotia will provide vaccine for the clinics.

Anticipated appointment availability by age group

Appointment bookings will be available by age group. All appointments need to be booked in advance. Do not go to a vaccination clinic unless you have an appointment.

Age group Anticipated start for booking appointments
80 and older March 2021
75 to 79, 70 to 74, 65 to 69, 60 to 64, 55 to 59 April 2021
50 to 54, 45 to 49, 40 to 44, 35 to 39, 30 to 34, 25 to 29 May 2021
20 to 24, 16 to 19 June 2021

Non-residents

If you’re not a permanent resident of Nova Scotia (you don’t have a Nova Scotia Health Card), you can still receive the vaccine while you’re in Nova Scotia if you’re staying in the province for an extended period.

You’ll only be able to book your appointment by phone. Learn more: appointments for non-residents.

Phase 1: initial doses and planning

How the vaccine will roll out in different areas of the province depends on vaccine shipments and distribution. Vaccine will be distributed on a rotation to cold storage sites as it’s received, until supply increases.

The first phase of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan focuses on:

  • healthcare workers who work directly with patients in hospital or patients in their home
  • paramedics and medical first responders
  • people who work in long-term care facilities
  • people who live in long-term care facilities and their designated caregivers
  • people who live and work in Department of Community Services facilities like adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres

Phase 2: expanding access

The second phase of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan expands access to the vaccine and focuses on:

  • anyone who works in a hospital and may come into contact with patients, starting with the 60 and older age group
  • community healthcare providers who provide in-person patient care (limited to medical doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, denturists, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who are currently licensed to practice and dental assistants and continuing care assistants)
  • people who live in large group settings (correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing) and those who work directly with them
  • people who are 80 and older
  • people who are 75 to 79
  • front-line police officers

Due to National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendations to extend the second dose interval to 105 days, several groups identified to receive the vaccine in the second phase will receive their vaccine by age group. This provides faster access to the vaccine in community clinics, pharmacy clinics and primary care provider clinics across the province. Groups include:

  • long-haul truck drivers and rotational workers
  • people who are responsible for food security and can’t maintain public health measures because of the nature of their work (like large food processing plants)

Phase 3: all Nova Scotians

The third phase of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan focuses on all Nova Scotians who didn’t receive the vaccine in earlier phases, including all professions and people with health conditions. Most Nova Scotians will be able to receive their vaccine during phase 3.

In this phase, Nova Scotians can receive the vaccine by age group (groups are in five-year increments). Age groups include:

  • 70 to 74
  • 65 to 69
  • 60 to 64
  • 55 to 59
  • 50 to 54
  • 45 to 49
  • 40 to 44
  • 35 to 39
  • 30 to 34
  • 25 to 29
  • 16 to 24

Vaccine data

Find information on the COVID-19 data dashboard about vaccine doses received and administered. Data includes total doses and second doses, vaccine supply (received and anticipated) and how many healthcare workers and long-term care residents have received second doses.

What you can do now

Until vaccines are more widely available, we need to continue to follow public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19. You should follow public health directives including gathering limits social distancing guidelines hand washing guidelines and wearing a mask when in public places. You should also stay home if you feel unwell and complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment.