The NWT’s vaccination rollout plan will be made public in the next week or so, the territory’s chief public health officer says.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Dr Kami Kandola said NWT government staff are working “as hard and fast as they can” to establish a roadmap for distribution and administration of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.
The NWT is expected to receive 51,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine between January and March 2021, enough to vaccinate 75 percent of the territory’s residents aged 18 and over.
On Wednesday, Kandola said consultation with Indigenous governments and community leaders had taken place throughout the week.
“We had a lot of good discussion about priority groups for vaccine rollout, the importance of communication across our official languages, and the logistics of getting these vaccines to communities,” Kandola said of those sessions.
“These relationships will prepare us to lead together and speak with one voice as we encourage folks to get vaccinated soon as they’re eligible.”
Attendees at those sessions sought clarity on who is included in the “priority populations” that first receive the vaccine in the NWT.
Health officials say priority will be given to four categories: Elders, those with pre-existing medical conditions, essential workers, and residents of remote Indigenous communities – especially those without healthcare systems or programs.
“We’re anticipating that probably around mid-January, hopefully, the shipments arrive, and we can start rolling out the vaccines to priority populations,” Kandola said.
Many Indigenous governments had stressed the importance of providing information in Indigenous languages, reporters were told, to help people give informed consent when receiving the vaccine.
Kandola confirmed the territory had received two specialized freezers to store doses of the vaccine at the Inuvik Regional Hospital and Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital.
The territory is still figuring out the logistics of distribution to communities without similar freezers.
The Moderna vaccine must be stored at -24C prior to use. Kandola said one possibility is the use of portable freezers on charter planes.
Moderna is not currently approved for emergency use by Health Canada, though such approval is anticipated in the near future. Kandola said the territory is “eagerly waiting” an update.
A wastewater win
According to the NWT government, more than 800 Covid-19 tests were carried out in the four days after traces of the virus showed up in Yellowknife’s sewage system.
Kandola had last week asked anyone isolating after travel in the first week of December to get tested. Officials were looking to find extra cases as the quantity of Covid-19 in sewage samples could not be adequately explained by the one known case at the time.
Five more cases were subsequently found in Yellowknife.
Kandola commended the work of officials who helped to manage the surge in testing, saying staff placed more than 1,500 calls and emails to reach people affected by her advice.
“They did that within 24 hours. They worked in lockstep to ensure everyone got the right advice,” said Kandola.
“Everyone went above and beyond to rise to the challenge.”
The quantity of Covid-19 in Yellowknife’s wastewater has since fallen, she said, which suggests there has been no further transmission of the virus.
Kandola said the NWT government hopes to add testing facilities and equipment in other communities.