'We are going to reach that 75 per cent by June 7,' N.B. health minister says

With one week until New Brunswick hits the first target date in its reopening plan, the province is now looking to bridge the gap between current vaccination rates in the province and the goal it has set for itself.

The first phase of the recently announced plan is expected to come into effect on June 7, as long as 75 per cent of the eligible population has received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. As of Monday, that number was 62.6 per cent – meaning the province has to increase that number by more than 12 percentage points in a matter of seven days.

However, New Brunswick's health minister Dorothy Shephard is optimistic that the province is on track to meet its target.

"The clinics are booking up and we feel that we are going to reach that 75 per cent by June 7," says Shephard. "Supply is good, we don't have an issue with supply.

With no supply issues affecting appointments, getting to the first phase goal comes down to boosting the numbers of New Brunswickers who are signing up to get their shot – so far more than 433,000 people have received their first jab – and the province is encouraging everyone else who is eligible to do the same.

"We know this is going to really be about people getting through the doors," says Shephard. "So we're encouraging everyone, if they haven't had their first dose to please book their clinic today as soon as possible."

If New Brunswick meets its goal, that means travellers from Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and parts of Quebec can visit the province without needing to self-isolate or be tested for COVID-19.

Along with the vaccination rate, however, all health zones have to remain in the yellow level and hospitalizations in the province have to remain low.

Epidemiologist Kevin Wilson says we can already see the effects of the vaccines throughout Canada.

"With the previous wave, the third wave most of the country went through, that lethality is blunted," says Wilson "even with widespread infections, there's just fewer ending up in hospital in proportion to how many cases there are."

There are 12 new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick being reported on Monday, six of which are contacts of previously confirmed cases and six are under investigation – for a total of 146 active cases province-wide.

There are also six people who have been hospitalized with the virus in New Brunswick, two of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit – Public Health is also reporting one person outside of the province has been admitted to an ICU.