The NWT’s chief public health officer (CPHO) is counting on the initial roll out of the Moderna vaccine across the territory to begin in close to a month, but a significant amount of logistical legwork needs to take place in the meantime.
The first doses of the vaccine will be administered to the territory’s priority population – those at highest risk of contracting or spreading the virus. That would comprise Elders age 60 and over, people with diseases, essential workers such as those in health care and Indigenous residents of remote communities that rely on fly-in service, Dr. Kami Kandola said during her weekly update on the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday.
A second vaccine shipment, which may include doses for the general population, is expected to be available in early February. It is uncertain if a third shipment will be required, Kandola said.
“We will hope that with the second shipment we can wrap up the priority groups and start working with the general population, but I don’t have any information to confirm that,” she said.
The NWT has, so far, secured 51,600 doses of the vaccine, which works out to 75 per cent of the territory’s adult population 18 years and older as two doses are required per individual. The number of doses in the initial batch coming to the territory was not disclosed.
The CPHO says that there is no vaccine for youth and those under 18, however clinical trials are underway.
Approval still required
There remains much groundwork to be done leading up to the first roll out, starting with the federal government’s go-ahead for the vaccine ordered.
“The most important information we’re waiting on is actually Health Canada’s approval of the Moderna vaccine,” Kandola said, adding that the Moderna product is advanced in the regulatory review process. “Even if we receive the shipment, there are still hiring logistics, communications (requirements to) make sure that NWT residents have the information they need to provide informed consent before we distribute the vaccine. So we’re anticipating that probably around mid-January, hopefully, the shipments arrive that we can start rolling out the vaccines to priority populations.”
The two large freezers that will store the vaccine – one at Stanton Territorial Hospital and one at the Inuvik Regional Hospital – arrived in the NWT this week, said Kandola.
“We can receive the initial shipments but we still have to go through training and hiring to deliver the vaccine,” she said.
With the freezers in place, Kandola said the territorial government is planning the logistics of how to reach small and remote communities.
This means that with the vaccine having to be kept at -20 C at all times, smaller portable freezers will be placed in charter planes with the mobile teams delivering the vaccine to communities, according to Kandola.
“This is all being worked out as we speak and this is part of the logistics preparation before before people roll out and deliver the vaccines,” she said.
Based on the First Ministers’ meeting on Dec. 10, the NWT, Nunavut and Yukon were identified as a priority for vaccination in Canada because of the remoteness and limited health-care service, Kandola added.