Northwest Territories residents are one step closer to getting immunization for Covid-19 after Health Canada announced the approval of the Moderna vaccine today.

The federal department issued a news release on Dec. 23 stating that after a “thorough, independent review of the evidence it has determined that the Moderna vaccine meets the department’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements.

One of two storage freezers for the Moderna vaccine was delivered in Inuvik last week. Health Canada announced its approval of the vaccine on Dec. 23. The GNWT plans for rollout next month.
photo courtesy of the Government of the Northwest Territories

“Today’s authorization is a critical step in ensuring additional Covid-19 vaccines are available to all Canadians in all parts of the country,” states the release. “The different storage and handling requirements of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine mean that it can be distributed to isolated and remote communities, including the territories.”

On Dec. 22, the GNWT had been expecting the vaccine to be approved within days with a vaccine distribution plan to follow in the first week of January.

The release states that Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada plan to closely monitor the safety of the vaccine as soon as it is on the market and will raise safety concerns as needed.

18 years and older 

For the time being, the vaccine is for use in people 18 years and older, but the Moderna company is “currently conducting additional studies in children from 12 years of age and older,” the release states. 

Julie Green, GNWT Minister of Health and Social Services
NNSL file photo

“This indication could be revised in the future to include children if the data from these studies support it,” states the release. 

Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services issued a media statement on Wednesday afternoon stating that the Moderna announcement was a positive development.

“This morning news spread that Health Canada has authorized the distribution of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Canada,” Green stated. “This is exciting news and puts the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) on track to meet our goal of having 75 per cent of eligible residents 18 years of age or older vaccinated in 2021.

“The NWT anticipates the first shipment of 7, 200 doses of the vaccine will be received by the end of December 2020, which is enough for 3600 NWT residents to receive the required 2 doses of the vaccine.”

Green added that the approval of the vaccine means that the territorial government is able to finalize its approach to the vaccine rollout in the coming weeks.

“There is still some work to do behind the scenes to get ready for the arrival of the vaccination and implementation of our plan,” she stated. “Hiring, communications, and logistics are key activities that must be complete before vaccination can begin. The GNWT also continues to work with Joint Task Force (North) to ensure the vaccine is distributed as efficiently as possible given the NWT’s unique geography and climate.”

Eligible adults encouraged to get immunized

Green stated that all eligible adults in the GNWT should get immunized once priority groups within the population are vaccinated, although the vaccine will not be mandatory.

“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,” she stated.

“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.”

Public health measures still recommended 

Green said in her statement that although the Moderna vaccine’s approval means that residents are “one step closer to resuming the lives we had before the pandemic started” there is still high risk over the holidays to spread Covid-19.

This includes following public health orders, washing hands often, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing, and staying home and getting tested when feeling sick.

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