VIDEO: Fall River’s Tracey Barbrick leads N.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout

FALL RIVER: Tracey Barbrick can’t wait to get back to spending more time with her wife, kids, and her loveable furball Roger. If everything stays on track, that could be by the fall.

Barbrick, the associate Deputy Minister of Community services and COVID-19 Immunization strategy, is leading the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines across the province, getting them in arms of Nova Scotians with an aim of all having first doses by the end of June and by fall everyone who wants one having both doses.

She spoke about what the process has been like with all the twists and turns thrown in.

“It’s been a ride,” she said. “Our biggest challenge has been the supply of vaccine, making it’s way to N.S. from the national supply. That has been up, down, you know, things come sooner or later then we expected, different amounts come then we expected.

“Supply has been our biggest challenge.”

Just before our interview, the province had dropped the age cohort to 35-39 for vaccines. That is a good sign and gives hope we’re getting to a good spot.

“In the early days it seemed like such a long path to get there and here we are in the 35-year-old and moving quickly,” said Barbrick.

VIDEO: The full video of our chat with Tracey. Video editing by: Dagley Media.

Barbrick, who dubs herself as a professional administrator, said she’s heard the criticisms from those online about the slow rollout of the vaccine in N.S. Like others have said, it’s not a race to be first.

“I have heard all of the criticisms,’ she said. ‘On the front end of this, we were very committed to building the infrastructure so that we would have a good, reliable, predictable program for Nova Scotians.

“We built this centralized booking system that really is the envy of the country that every citizen can go to one place and find everything that is available to them and make a decision on what vaccine they want (in their age group).

“A lot of that infrastructure took a little bit of time. We also made the commitment to hold back second doses and make sure if Pat got his first dose, he would get his second dose exactly when we said he would.”

She agrees it’s not a competition. There had been some dismayed N.S. was last on the vaccine in arms list.

“Canada is only safe when the globe is safe,” she said.

Barbrick, who along with her wife have two children aged 12 and 18, talked about the AZ pause, and how it may impact things. She said it’s not impacting the rollout a whole lot as they knew they would only be working with a limited supply and would have more Moderna and Pfizer.

However, she does understand for those people the pause does impact and who are upset and worried.

“It (AstraZeneca) is a good vaccine, it’s not that it’s not,’ she said. ‘The reason we discontinued our program is people were cancelling because of the global discussions, so the clinics were running with only a couple of people coming, so it was getting hard to manage for them, and the increasing events around the VITT.

“We’re trying to assure people getting it was the right choice for them.”

She said the path forward for people will be known once more science is learned on mixing doses.

“We want to reassure people they don’t need to worry; we’ve got you covered,” said Barbrick. “We’ll make sure you get a second dose of the right thing for you.”

 Barbrick said with so many unknowns regarding vaccine deliveries and changes, it made things interesting.

“It’s like planning with a blindfold on with one arm tied behind your back,” said Barbrick. “The number of variables in this rollout are more than you could ever expect. The vaccines all need to be stored at different temperatures; different handling requirements; they come on a different schedule; their targeted at different people; and then the supply goes up and down.”

She said N.S. has a team of thousands of people who are committed to the vaccine rollout.

Barbrick spoke about the effectiveness of the vaccine on the new variants.

“The vaccines are showing to be quite effective at both preventing serious illness and death, as well as reducing transmission between people,” she said.

“The signs are good that they’re all staying close enough in similarity that the vaccines are still effective.”

She talked about playing such an important role.

“It’s been a privilege. We have the best of the best working on this,” she said. “The public health team, the Department of Health team, everyone involved is so committed.”

Barbrick admitted she and her vaccine rollout team are pretty burnt out after the past 14 months-plus.

“I won’t lie, the whole healthcare system is pretty burnt out, but everyone is digging deep with the eye of putting this in our rear-view mirror,” she said. “I try to get out with Roger as much as I can. I try to spend time with my wife and our two kids and try to recharge where you can.

“There’s no illusion, everyone is working really hard and a lot. They’re all going to need to recover when we get to the fall and get this done.”