Residents and staff at long-term care facilities in the NWT will in a few days be offered their second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“People who rang in the new year with their first dose of vaccine like Bruce Jonasson at Avens and Caroline Douglas at the Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home in Behchoko will be fully immunized within the next couple of weeks,” chief public health officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola said Wednesday.
Kandola spoke to reporters almost one full month since the NWT’s vaccination campaign began on Dec. 31, when Elders in long-term care homes were the first people in the territory to receive first doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Jonasson, who lives at Avens Manor in Yellowknife said on Dec. 31 that it was “marvellous” to be among the first people in the NWT to be vaccinated.
“The next two shipments of vaccines anticipated in February will be the second doses of the vaccine given to people in priority populations like Bruce and Caroline. I hope this focus on protecting our most vulnerable brings comfort to families across the North,” said Kandola, who added that probably more than 10,000 vaccines have now been given to the most vulnerable residents.
Health Minister Julie Green announced Tuesday that almost 9,500 first doses of Moderna had been administered to residents and all 33 communities have conducted clinics.
The CPHO has said previously that it takes at least six weeks for full immunization to be achieved, since the second dose should come 28 days after the first one, and another two weeks must pass until the vaccine becomes fully effective.
The NWT has so far received two shipments of Moderna vaccines. The first arrived on Dec. 28 and the second came in mid-January, for a total of 14,400 doses.
“We anticipate two more shipments in February,” Kandola said. “They’ll provide the second doses for the first two shipments. One will be in the first week of February and then the next one will be the last week of February.”
Territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, who also spoke in the conference said that after her past experiences with numerous vaccination programs, “this one is going extremely well.
“Our ability to get into every community in the NWT over the past four weeks and administer vaccines to residents across this vast territory is a great success, and hopefully a turning point in the pandemic for our territory.”
Widening the net of vaccination
The progressive expansion of the Yellowknife vaccine clinic for priority populations since it started on Jan. 18 shows the campaign has widened its net, Pegg said, though it wasn’t necessarily working ahead of its schedule.
Health authorities were able to vaccinate priority groups faster than the initial vaccine plan accounted for because as dose numbers were tallied at the end of each clinic there were enough remaining that other members of higher risk groups could be vaccinated.
“It really reflects the dynamic nature of the vaccination supply that we have here,” Pegg said. “We would love to have been able to vaccinate everyone all at the same time. But with the way the allotments arrive, we need to make sure that we are able to vaccinate anyone who makes an appointment. And also make sure that we’re keeping vaccine numbers available so that when further allotments arrive, we’re able to use those to give these people their second dose.
Completion of NWT’s vaccine program?
Determining when the territory’s Covid-19 vaccine program can be considered wrapped up depends on several factors, Kandola said.
The forecast into the spring of 2021 looks good because the NWT is expected to receive its vaccine allotment for the general population by late March, but some aspects of the Covid-19 situation need more research.
Some groups aren’t yet eligible for vaccination, such as youth under 18 years of age and clinical trials still need to be seen for that population as children head into the next school year.
The variants of Covid-19 circulating around the world are another factor and call into question if booster vaccines would be available.
“By April, we hope that everyone would have got (a) second dose (in the NWT). But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop vaccinating. We’re not going to open up to other population groups. We’re also going to take into consideration whether we need a booster so that information is always evolving, and we’re learning as we go.”