Health authorities began vaccinating residents and staff against Covid-19 on Dec. 31 at AVENS Manor in Yellowknife and at the Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home in Behchoko, Department of Health and Social Services spokesperson Damien Healy said in a news release.

“A team from the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) was deployed to vaccinate residents and staff at these two long term care facilities earlier today,” the release said. “The team was made up logisticians, nurses and translators who were also on site to help the local health care staff who are considered the experts in their communities deliver the vaccine.”

The vaccinations come just one day after Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said the vaccine program for Elders would start over the next week, and days after the first shipment of 7,200 doses of Moderna vaccine arrived in the NWT. It requires two doses given four weeks apart for immunization.

Health care worker Sheila Laity, left, with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority prepares to give the Covid-19 vaccine to Caroline Douglas at the Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home in Behchoko. GNWT image

Elders in long-term care homes and staff are categorized by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) as being among those at highest risk and priority for vaccination.

They’re among the priority groups for vaccinations which also include individuals with chronic medical conditions, frontline health care workers, resident workers who live in the NWT but work regularly outside the territory or at camps with non-residents and Indigenous people in remote communities.

The priority groups will receive vaccinations in a phased format that will be expanded to the entire eligible NWT population as vaccine supplies increase.

The release stated March of 2021 is the target for completion of the vaccination roll out, adding that NWT residents can be confident that top Canadian experts, scientists, and medical professionals carefully reviewed all of the scientific data and evidence for vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Health care worker Shona Campbell, left, prepares to administer the Moderna vaccine to Bruce Jonasson at AVENS Manor in Yellowknife, on Thursday. GNWT image

NWT residents have a choice whether or not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, though even if residents aren’t at high risk of severe disease from coronavirus, receiving the vaccine will help protect others.

“Think of your friends, family, co- workers, elders, and other community members. The GNWT encourages all eligible adult residents to get vaccinated,” the release said.

Health Minister Julie Green said she’s glad at how the first day of vaccination has progressed after residents at long-term care facilities began receiving vaccines Thursday morning.

“(I’m) excited about the months ahead as we work to vaccinate the rest of our eligible population. Though vaccinations are not mandatory, vaccine uptake will be especially important to protect those who cannot yet receive the Moderna vaccine, including residents who are pregnant, immunocompromised, or less than 18 years of age. It’s important we all play our part in returning the North to life as we knew it before the pandemic and get vaccinated for the safety of our loved ones,” she said.

Premier Caroline Cochrane said the GNWT has always been committed to protecting residents and communities, especially the most vulnerable ones.

“It has been our commitment to evidence-based decision making, and to listening to the advice of our medical professionals and those in the scientific community that (has brought us to) the cusp of beginning to overcome one of the biggest challenges our society has ever faced,” she said.

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