Premier Blaine Higgs says government has assembled a “swat team” to find new ways to reach New Brunswickers who haven’t been vaccinated, with the aim to search out the under 40 crowd and make shots more accessible.
Higgs went as far on Tuesday as to suggest partnerships with Tim Hortons or other restaurants could be in the works.
The comments came a day after he mused about COVID-19 vaccines on ice-cream trucks.
He again suggested that freezer trucks just may be the way to get the shot to the last few thousand New Brunswickers needed to get the vaccine rollout past a key milestone of 75 per cent uptake.
“Looking to be creative,” Higgs said on Tuesday, “We’ve had businesses connect with us and we have seen that in different municipalities with businesses looking for creative ways to get people vaccinated.
“I know there’s a big lineup at Parle Beach and you say ‘well, if you were there with a vaccines and an ice-cream you’d probably get people signed up on the way to the beach.’”
While more than 75 percent of New Brunswickers in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s all have a first shot, just over 51 percent of 20-year-olds and 57 per cent of 30-year-olds have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, roughly 45 per cent of New Brunswickers have a first shot.
Higgs say efforts to decide what would work best are actively being sought.
“We have kind of put a swat team together to look at how we can move into different communities, maybe with a refrigerated truck, I think there’s more flexibility there with Pfizer,” Higgs said.
Health Canada recommended last month that the Provinces can now store the Pfizer vaccine at refrigerator temperatures for up to one month creating, new opportunities.
“We just want to be more creative in meeting people where they are, asking people if you’re out with a group whether they’ve been vaccinated and leading them to the nearest clinic,” Higgs said.
“If we had trucks in communities where people are gathering I just believe people would do their part.”
Higgs showed particular interest in partnering with businesses.
He referenced Big Axe Brewery in Nackawic that has partnered with the Fredericton Nissan car dealership to offer a free beer over the weekend to anyone who shows up with a vaccine certificate.
He revealed that the province has at least had preliminary talks with Tim Hortons, suggesting it could play an eventual role in every province.
“They’re willing to participate,” Higgs said.
The Premier’s words come amid calls for new ways to reach New Brunswickers.
New Brunswick’s two health authorities have started offering walk-in clinics, doing away with the need for people to register for the shot. Other provinces have deployed pop up clinics in neighborhoods with access challenges.
Liberal MLA, Gary Arseneault has called for clinics in schools.
“Absolutely, we are looking at how we can go to schools,” Higgs said on Tuesday.
But there is a line as to how far New Brunswickers will go.
Several U.S. states are rolling out 5 million dollar cash lotteries as incentives for Americans to get vaccinated where those who get the shot are entered into a draw.
Ohio’s “Vax-A-Million” sparked a 45 per cent spike in vaccinations, according to the state’s health department. Kentucky’s “Shot at a Million” had similar success.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that 12 to 17-year-olds get a first dose will be entered in a raffle to win a full scholarship at a New York public university.
In Illinois, people can get free tickets to the Six Flags Amusement Park.
West Virginia has a chance to win a hunting rifles or shotguns.
Higgs is ruling anything like that out. “As far as someone thinking we’re going to offer cash incentives to get a free vaccine, that won’t be the case,” he said.
By Adam Huras – Parliament Hill
originally printed June 8, 2021. reprinted without permission.