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New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs receives a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, in Fredericton, on March 31, 2021.Stephen MacGillivray/The Canadian Press

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he didn’t even feel the needle enter his arm as he got his first shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday.

“You mean it’s all over?” he asked licensed practical nurse Brenda Tree. “Wow. Very good.”

Higgs was among about 200 people over the age of 55 who were offered the vaccine at a clinic in Fredericton. Many of the doses had originally been destined for teachers until earlier this week, when the National Advisory Committee on Immunization advised against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 55.

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In rare cases, some people have developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, but there have been no such cases reported in Canada.

Higgs told reporters the best vaccine to get is the one that’s available. “We need to make use of it, and when I had the opportunity today, I made use of it,” he said.

The premier got his shot on a day health officials reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, almost all in the Edmundston region, where tighter public health measures were imposed last week. The 11 new cases there were all contacts of previously confirmed cases, and they range in age from three people 19 and under to two people in their 70s.

The other new case involves someone in their 50s in the Fredericton region and is related to travel. There are now 135 active cases in New Brunswick, with five patients in hospital – including two in intensive care.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, urged people to resist the temptation to gather over the Easter weekend. “We have come so far through this pandemic and we now have vaccinations taking place,” she said in a news release. “Let’s not risk falling backwards through laxness in safety protocols.”

Health officials said high schools at which staff were vaccinated last week will resume full-time, in-person learning on April 12. In other areas of the province, vaccination clinics for teachers have been rescheduled and the full resumption of classes has been delayed until later in the month.

Many of the unused AstraZeneca doses in New Brunswick were set to expire Friday, so the government set up several clinics to avoid having them go to waste. “We want to make sure everyone gets their vaccine,” Higgs said. “We don’t want any lost or unused. Turnout today has been good.”

Higgs said if he was going to advise people to get the vaccine, he had to be comfortable getting a shot himself.

“Everyone is tired of COVID, and we want to get opened up to the rest of the country,” Higgs said. “We can’t do that unless we get vaccinated up to the 75 per cent level.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Pfizer is increasing its vaccine delivery schedule, adding five million doses to June shipments for a total of 9.6 million doses that month. This is in addition to expected shipments of two other vaccines.

The Canadian Press

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