NWT officials urged residents not to panic if they need to wait longer than originally planned for their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Countries around the world are contending with vaccine shortages as manufacturers struggle to keep up with global demand.
In January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced up to 25 percent of Moderna vaccine doses originally expected to arrive in Canada in February wouldn’t make it, resulting in the NWT taking a cut from 7,200 doses to 4,700 in its latest shipment.
The territorial government has since shifted from planning to administer two doses four weeks apart to a six-week interval, which is at the upper end of the window recommended by a federal panel of experts.
Dr AnneMarie Pegg, the territory’s medical director, on Wednesday told reporters that people who have received their first dose shouldn’t get “too stressed out” if they aren’t able to get their second dose at the previously planned 28-day mark.
“There is very good evidence … from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that delaying that second dose up to 42 days actually doesn’t count even as delaying it,” Pegg said.
“That’s well within the acceptable window to receive a second dose.”
Chief public health officer Dr Kami Kandola said evidence from Moderna’s vaccine trial showed even one dose would make a significant difference.
“The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine is over 92 percent efficacious starting between 14 days after the first dose and before the second dose, meaning even residents with only one dose have built a strong protection against the disease,” she said.
Antibodies developed with the first dose remain in the body beyond the 28-day mark, Kandola said, emphasizing that residents would not have to restart the vaccine process if their second dose was administered late.
As of Monday, 12,833 first doses had been administered while 299 NWT residents – mostly residents and staff of long-term care homes – had been fully vaccinated.
Clinics return to communities
A fourth shipment of Moderna’s vaccine expected later this month will be similarly impacted by vaccine shortages, Kandola said. The GNWT is waiting to hear back from the federal government on the exact nature of that impact.
Asked if delays would affect the second-dose clinics recently scheduled for 11 communities, Pegg said officials were confident the rollout could continue with the territory’s current vaccine supply.
Residents of those 11 communities will be able to receive their first doses at the forthcoming clinics if they did not receive a first dose at an earlier date.
Pegg said vaccine teams are ready to return to communities three or four times, if needed, to ensure everyone is fully vaccinated.
The GNWT is expecting higher turnout rates at clinics the second time around, Kandola said.
“As more and more communities became vaccinated and more community leaders – mayors, chiefs, myself – got vaccinated, we noticed in those particular communities that there was an increased uptick in vaccinations,” Kandola said.
“A lot of the community leaders were reaching out to us and asking when the second dose was scheduled. There’s already a sense of anticipation and enthusiasm for those who got the first to book the second, so I anticipate that we will probably get a lot of uptake.”
Second-dose clinics have also opened to some priority groups in Yellowknife, alongside an additional 500 vaccine appointments for those looking to get their first shots.
As of Wednesday evening, only one vacancy among those 500 slots remained.
Residents can keep up to date with the Covid-19 vaccination schedule on the NWT health authority’s website.