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Top doc taps Fed's for more vaccines as NWT projects shortage

Teresa Patzer, left, gives chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola a shot of the Moderna vaccine in the in Wekweeti on Jan. 13. The initial vaccine allotment was made before COVID-19 variants became dominant and the NWT has requested more vaccines from the federal government to vaccinate out-of-territory rotational workers, said Kandola. NNSL photo

The NWT is requesting more vaccines from the federal government to meet its expanded vaccine program, said chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola.

In an email to NNSL Media Thursday, Kandola said the 51,600 doses of vaccine the NWT has received from the federal government is enough to vaccinate 75 per cent of adult residents.

More vaccines requested

However, the initial allotment of vaccine “was calculated before the dominance of more infectious and deadly variants of concern emerged that are targeting younger, healthier people,” she said.

“For this reason, and to continue vaccinating out-of-territory, rotational workers at high risk of bringing COVID-19 into the NWT, additional vaccine has been requested from the federal government for the second quarter of 2021.”

She added that high vaccination levels inside NWT borders are among deciding factors when considering relaxing restrictions and revising public health orders.

“We also need to take into account: evidence of transmission after vaccination, effectiveness of vaccine on emerging variants of concern, and risk to unprotected populations (primarily those under 18). While we are not committed to a specific target number for vaccine coverage, high vaccine uptake is one of the factors within our control that will help us get back to doing the things we love.”

Revising vaccination target?

Her statement on Thursday follows comments she gave to the National Post on April 9, when she and Yukon's chief medical officer of health were quoted saying “they would like to get to 85 per cent of the population vaccinated before they will breathe easier."

Kandola's office didn't respond to questions asking if the target of 75 per cent vaccination had been officially raised.

Health Minister Julie Green has also suggested the vaccination target will change, after she told members of the legislative assembly on March 29 that the 75 per cent goal is “now in question” due to the risk of transmission of COVID-19 variants, vaccine uptake and other factors.

“(They) may change the immunity level that we require in communities to say that we are fully vaccinated,” she said.

'Race between vaccines and variants'

In early March, Kandola said that some restrictions could be eased by the end of April, although she cautioned that the NWT is in a race between vaccines and variants of the virus.

Three cases of the B.1.1.7 variant were diagnosed on April 8, two from Diavik Diamond Mine and one from an NWT resident connected to international travel.

A total of 24,746 first doses of the vaccine have been administered in the NWT as of Wednesday, and 16,471 second doses.