NWT health officials are sticking to their target of vaccinating 75 percent of the territory’s adults by the end of March, despite delays to shipments of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine across Canada.
In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, NWT health minister Julie Green said the federal government had “remained strong in its promise” to deliver enough doses for the territory to reach that target.
“Since the beginning of our vaccine rollout, we knew that the allotment and delivery of doses are both out of our control,” she said. “Our team has built a flexible vaccine delivery schedule to account for shipment delays, weather and other unforeseen challenges.”
Green confirmed the territory will receive 4,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week rather than the 7,200 doses originally anticipated. The minister said the number of doses scheduled to arrive in the NWT in the third week of February will also be reduced. The territory awaits updates about its fourth and fifth shipments.
Dr Kami Kandola, the territory’s chief public health officer, said the reduction in doses would cause changes to the territory’s vaccine rollout plan but clinics this week will not be impacted.
NWT residents working at remote camps, including mine sites, are receiving their first dose of the vaccine this week.
“This is a national effort and we are team players. That means accepting some reduced shipments alongside our colleagues across the country,” Kandola said.
“While this is disappointing, we all need to expect some bumps in the road.”
Kandola added that though the territory must adjust its vaccine schedule and priorities, the NWT will still receive enough doses to vaccinate the majority of its population sooner than the provinces.
So far, 12,241 NWT residents across all 33 communities have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Of those, 125 residents in long-term care facilities have also received their second dose.
Green said residents in long-term care facilities in Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Inuvik, Hay River and Norman Wells, along with the extended care unit at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife, are next in line to receive their second dose.
Officials still investigating Fort Liard case
There are currently five active cases of Covid-19 in the territory, including three connected to a “limited outbreak” at a construction camp for the Gahcho Kué winter road. In an unrelated case, a non-resident worker at the mine itself has also tested positive for Covid-19.
Kandola said those who tested positive and their contacts are isolating and no risks to communities have been identified.
“We are cautiously optimistic that well-executed exposure control plans on site, alongside strong testing and tracing efforts, have controlled the outbreak at the winter road site,” she said.
Territorial officials said the new case, which is connected to work and travel outside the territory, is not related to the cluster of six cases in Fort Liard announced in January. All six of those patients have since recovered.
On Tuesday, Kandola said the person who recently tested positive for Covid-19 in Fort Liard is isolating and there was not a high risk of further transmission.
Almost anyone entering the territory has long had to isolate in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, or Inuvik for 14 days. Officials could not say whether the individual who tested positive in Fort Liard was granted an exemption. Premier Caroline Cochrane said the case was being investigated.
Cochrane said essential workers travelling outside the territory for any reason should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms, as they have long been instructed, and people travelling for other reasons should make and stick to their isolation plan.