A total of 1,893 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the NWT as of Monday, said Health Minister Julie Green in a news conference on Tuesday.
“This is a great number and I applaud all the vaccine teams that worked with local health care providers last week to bring us this impressive number,” said Green, who joined the conference remotely.
It means the territory has more than tripled the number of people who have received their first vaccine dose since they last updated the public on their progress Jan. 11.
“When we get to the point where we’re doing second doses and we have an idea of how many people are fully immunized, then we can decide how we present the data,” chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola explained, saying they wouldn’t be breaking down the number of vaccines delivered in each community.
Since the NWT’s vaccination campaign began on Dec. 31, 2020 a number of priority groups, such as Elders and people in remote Indigenous communities were designated as first in line for the vaccine.
Some people outside the priority groups, including Kandola who received her first dose in Wekweeti on Jan. 13, have received their doses when not all of the designated vials were used up, or when all the priority group members were already vaccinated. The numbers of those particular doses aren’t being tracked.
Kandola effused that “stories of hope and excitement around this vaccine” have been coming out of the communities as the campaign rolls out.
“One that stands out is from Lorie Steinwand, a public health nurse who works in Hay River and was administering vaccines at Woodland Manor. She had some extra doses on hand after the residents and staff in the long term care unit were completed. And she began calling out other priority residents seek the way interested in getting the vaccine that day.
“And basically from her story, she said people were literally screaming into the phone with excitement that they were in line to get the vaccine.”
While it’s recommended that people receive their second dose of the vaccine 28 days after the first dose, if the schedule is delayed people wouldn’t have to restart the vaccine series.
“The first dose will build immunity even if the second dose is delayed,” Kandola said.
Green acknowledged that some people have faced difficulties in making appointments to book vaccinations at the clinic in Yellowknife held Monday to Friday for residents aged 60 and older.
If people are unable to speak directly with someone on the line, Green advised them to book an appointment online.
“Public health staff is working extremely hard to answer all requests for appointments. And I can assure you that any eligible NWT resident who wants the vaccine will get one,” she said.
Vaccination in Fort Liard
The vaccination team headed to Fort Liard on Thursday will stay for an additional day to accommodate some of the 50 people isolating there following the recent confirmation of cases, said territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg at the news conference.
Fort Liard’s vaccine clinic was previously scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday.
“The vaccination team is currently working with the staff to organize clinic times … to ensure that individuals who are isolating (and) who have a negative Covid swab and who are asymptomatic are still able to access vaccinations during the visit of the team,” Pegg said.
“And for those people who are isolating and are wondering about their particular situation as to how to access the vaccine, those who are isolating will be contacted individually in order to make arrangements … to access the vaccine during the team’s visit.”
Another option being considered is for the vaccination team to visit people who are isolating in their homes so they can receive their first dose, Pegg added.
Liard testing and tracing
Almost 100 Covid-19 tests have been conducted in Fort Liard since the discovery of the three cases on Saturday and the health centre staff and rapid response team are collaborating effectively, Pegg said.
Kandola pointed out that due to the high number of contacts with the three confirmed cases, the likelihood of more cases being found is high. The two cases considered “probable” on Tuesday are yet counted as confirmed, she said.
It is believed the initial case in Fort Liard was in an individual who began showing symptoms while in isolation in Hay River. After the isolation period was done, the person sought testing, which led to a confirmed result for Covid-19, Kandola said.
That case has also been traced back to wastewater tests in Hay River in early January that revealed the presence of Covid-19.
The most recent signal found in wastewater testing on Jan. 14 is much fainter than the signals earlier in the month, Kandola said.
“We have confidence that pretty much most of the signal was explained by our current cluster (in Fort Liard). But you have to do ongoing surveillance for wastewater” which will continue in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik, she added.