Vaccine delay will cost NWT at least 2,500 doses in February

Elizabeth Liske receives the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in Dettah. Pat Kane/National Geographic Society Covid-19 Emergency Fund

Many priority groups for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine will now get their second dose after closer to 42 days, not 28 as originally planned, after the federal government announced delays to shipments.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday morning up to 25 percent of the Moderna doses originally expected to arrive in Canada in February won’t make it.

Vaccine manufacturers worldwide have struggled to ramp up production to the levels demanded by nations eager to acquire their products.

Trudeau said global production continued to increase but pressure on the supply chain meant “in the short term, those numbers can fluctuate.”



Later on Friday, NWT health minister Julie Green said the territory would “be adjusting delivery over the coming days and weeks to maximize our vaccine supply.”

Vaccine clinics scheduled for this weekend are going ahead as planned and no appointments are being cancelled.

In a briefing document, the territorial government said it now expected to receive 4,700 doses next week instead of the originally anticipated 7,200.

“The shipment scheduled for the third week of February will also be impacted, but we are still waiting for exact details from Moderna,” the territory stated.



Move toward 42 days

Earlier this month, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization suggested the window between the first and second required doses of Moderna’s vaccine could stretch from 28 to 42 days if vaccine shortages made that necessary.

On Friday, the NWT government said it would now shift toward that approach for most groups.

“Over the next week, the GNWT will continue delivering second doses to long-term care residents and staff within the 28-day timeframe using existing vaccine from the first and second shipments,” the territory said.

“Second doses to other priority populations will be delivered closer to the 42-day timeframe to maximize vaccine supply.”

If future shipments are similarly affected, the NWT government said it would study research on approaches taken by Quebec and the United Kingdom, where doses are in some cases now given 12 weeks apart.

“The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine is reported to be 92-percent efficacious after the first dose, which means that residents with only one dose of vaccine are still building strong immunity against the disease,” the territory said.

Rotational workers prioritized

Next week, NWT residents who are rotational workers – spending extended periods at work sites alongside southern colleagues – will be offered their first doses of the vaccine.

The territory said the two cases of Covid-19 at a Gahcho Kué winter road camp this week demonstrated the need to prioritize rotational workers, given what the GNWT called “the increased risk of exposure from southern workers.”



Mine workers, ice road support staff and medevac pilots are considered part of the rotational worker priority group.

“All remaining doses will be conserved to deliver second doses to priority populations,” the NWT government said.

The impact on the timeline for residents who don’t qualify for any priority group was not immediately known. The general public had been set to begin receiving first doses toward the end of March.

“Requests for first doses are being put on hold until delivery dates and quantities for future shipments are confirmed by the federal government,” the territory said.

In a statement, health minister Green said: “It is important to remember that, even with these updates to our anticipated vaccine allotment, we are well positioned as a territory compared to other jurisdictions in Canada thanks to rapid and wastewater testing, public health orders, and vaccine uptake to date.

“The federal government has remained strong in its promise to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to all eligible Canadians by the end of September 2021.”