The Nova Scotia government says more than a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine -- enough to vaccinate more than 500,000 people -- are expected to arrive in the province over the next six months.

The provincial government released new details about its COVID-19 immunization plan on Tuesday.

New vaccination clinics are scheduled to start in several communities this month.

The Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney and Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville will each receive 1,950 doses of the vaccine this week, with clinics starting on Jan. 11.

The Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro will receive 2,925 doses the week of Jan. 11, with a clinic starting on Jan. 18.

Vaccinations will also begin at three long-term care facilities – Northwood’s Halifax Campus, Shannex Parkstone, and Oceanview -- in the Central Zone this month.

The province received a combined 9,550 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in December. Of those, 2,720 doses were administered, another 2,720 doses were reserved for a second dose, and 3,700 doses were reserved for long-term care.

In December, the province focused on vaccinating COVID-response health-care workers in the Central Zone because of the handling and storage requirements of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine.

"We all want to see Nova Scotians getting shots in their arms as quickly as possible," said Premier Stephen McNeil in a news release. "We have a long road ahead of us before everyone who wants the vaccine can receive it. I ask Nova Scotians for their patience as our health system works as quickly as possible to distribute the vaccine."

THREE-PHASE IMMUNIZATION PLAN

Roughly 140,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines -- enough to immunize 75,000 people -- are expected to arrive in the province by the end of March as part of the first phase of the immunization plan, which will roll out in three phases.

Another million doses are expected to be delivered between April and June.

Roughly 86,000 Nova Scotians 75 years of age and older are eligible to receive the vaccine during Phase 1, which will run from January to April.

During this phase, the province will continue to focus on immunizing front-line health-care workers who are closely involved in the COVID-19 response. All workers in this category are expected to receive at least the first of their two required doses by the end of January.

Staff, designated caregivers and residents in long-term care, as well as residential care residents and staff, will also be immunized during Phase 1.

Seniors living in the community who are 80 or older, followed by seniors between the ages of 75 and 79, will also be prioritized, along with health-care workers, such as physicians, paramedics and home-care workers whose work involves direct contact with patients.

During Phase 1, steps will also be taken to develop community and provider-based clinics delivered by physicians and pharmacists, in preparation for later phases.

Phase 2, which is expected to begin in May, will include remaining health-care workers and essential workers.

Phase 3 will begin in the summer and will include all Nova Scotians who are not part of the Phase 1 and 2 priority groups.

"We expect to receive small allotments of vaccine through the first few months of 2021, which will be distributed to cold storage sites and clinics across the province," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health. "How, when and where the vaccine rolls out in communities across the province may look different from region to region. Our focus in Phase 1 is to immunize the highest priority groups and develop different vaccine delivery models ahead of receiving larger amounts of vaccine in Phase 2."

The vaccines will be delivered to cold storage sites across the province on a rotating basis as they become available.

MCNEIL RESPONDS TO CRITICISM ABOUT ROLLOUT

There has been criticism about the speed of the vaccine rollout, but the province's premier and top doctor say staffing is not an issue and they have not been slow to deliver the shots.

"We got vaccine on Dec. 15. We immunized people that day," said Strang during a news conference on Tuesday. "We continue to immunize them."

"Public health has done a tremendous job of ensuring that we look at diversity of how we deliver this vaccine, and also at the rate of how we deliver this vaccine, and when we do, we're doing it properly," said McNeil. "Anyone who suggests that Public Health is sitting on vaccines in this province, it's just not accurate and it's just not true."

Strang said the vaccine is arriving in relatively small amounts each week and noted this is the most complex vaccine program the province has ever implemented.

"The speed of this will slowly increase," he said.