Moncton — As New Brunswick slowly moves into the Green phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan, detailed breakdowns of the province’s vaccination numbers are becoming available, showing how many residents received their first dose of the COVID vaccine, how many received their second dose, and how many simply stepped on a discarded needle at a local playground — numbers that also counted towards the province’s 75% threshold for loosening restrictions.
Early data suggests New Brunswickers over the age of 65 were the most likely to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, with many also well on their way toward a second dose, while those under 40 — especially parents and families with small children — were the most likely to have stepped on a heroin needle discarded on public grounds by an individual with a substance abuse problem.
Jacob Wyatt of Moncton says he is ready to ring in the summer, having received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the end of April, and then getting stuck on his finger by a discarded syringe at Victoria Park while picking up after his dog — which Public Health counts as his second dose.
“I’m just happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t imagine another public health crisis like this in our lifetime,” said Wyatt, who lives across the street from the park in question where nearly 3,000 discarded needles and various pieces of drug paraphernalia were picked up by volunteers with Needle Dogs Moncton last year, and more than 100,000 needles were picked up city-wide.
“We’ve all lived through something terrible, but I’m just glad it’s over now and we can stop worrying about things so much. It’s amazing how the community came together to help the upper middle-class get through this [COVID-19] pandemic.”
With warmer weather settling in across the province, more young families have been heading outside to enjoy playgrounds and public parks, stepping on so many discarded syringes that the number of New Brunswickers getting injected finally broke 75 percent this week after recent sluggish progress.
“I’m so glad we can finally start the Green phase so I can visit friends and family again,” says Patricia Brown of Quispamsis, who now qualifies for isolation-free interprovincial travel and also has Hepatitis C following a needle-stick injury from sitting on a bench outside the Saint John Public Library two weeks ago.
“The strict safety rules were difficult to live with at times, but the government has a responsibility to keep its citizens safe and healthy,” adds Melissa Connors, recently evicted from her small one-bedroom apartment after her landlord unilaterally increased her rent by 600 percent in one month and is now living on the street and fighting a painkiller addiction.
“I was happy to do my part as a citizen, respecting government guidelines, socially distancing myself from the other people in the tent city I’m forced to live in now, and following the arrows at the pharmacy when I go pick up the pseudo-ephedrine I need to sell to meth heads so I can survive.
“I still tune in to the COVID briefing every day,” she adds. “I get anxious if the daily case count goes up more than two or three at a time. Left unchecked, y’know, things could start getting really bad with community spread.”
As the province enters Green Phase 2, many New Brunswickers are now turning their attention to those who need a second jab, with a new marketing campaign currently being developed to encourage more residents to walk around their neighbourhood parks barefoot, and gut more social programs and safety nets in order to increase easy access to needles across the province.