Health Canada approves Moderna vaccine destined for NWT

Health Canada has approved the Moderna vaccine for Covid-19, the version being relied upon by the Northwest Territories to protect its residents from the virus.

The vaccine, developed by Moderna and the United States’ National Institutes of Health, requires two doses taken a month apart. Studies featuring about 30,000 participants suggest the vaccine has a 94.1-percent efficiency rate.

“After a thorough, independent review of evidence, it has been determined that the Moderna vaccine meets the department’s stringent safety, efficacy, and quality requirements,” Health Canada said in a statement on Wednesday.


Health Canada approved a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech earlier this month, but the NWT will receive only the Moderna vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine is considered too difficult to transport to the territory as it requires constant temperatures of -70C to remain effective. Northern communities don’t have the infrastructure to keep the vaccine’s doses that cold during transit or in storage.

The Moderna vaccine, by contrast, can be shipped and kept in long-term storage at a standard freezer temperature of -20C. It remains stable for a month at refrigerator temperatures of 2C-8C.

The territory has received two specialized freezers to store doses of the vaccine, one in Inuvik and one at Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital.

The NWT expects 51,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine to be delivered between January and March 2021, enough to vaccinate 75 percent of the territory’s adult residents.


On Tuesday, territorial health minister Julie Green said staff were “working tirelessly to develop a robust vaccine rollout plan that will reach each and every NWT community sooner rather than later.”

Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said priority for the vaccine will go to Elders, those with pre-existing medical conditions, essential workers, and residents of remote Indigenous communities.