The NWT expects to offer Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine to all remaining adult residents by late March or early April this year, the territory’s chief public health officer said on Wednesday.
Dr Kami Kandola clarified that the territory’s target is to ensure 75 percent of eligible adults receive their first dose of the vaccine by the end of March, but full herd immunity is not anticipated until late April.
Meanwhile, Kandola said the Gahcho Kué diamond mine Covid-19 outbreak has so far seen three people require hospital treatment. They are the first patients requiring hospitalization with the disease reported by the territory since April 2020.
The condition of those people was not given. There are currently eight active cases related to the outbreak at the mine site, while 11 other cases have recovered.
“These hospitalizations are a stark reminder that we must take this pandemic seriously,” Kandola told reporters.
“That is why we have put these public health measures in place and why they need to remain in place.
“We remain cautiously optimistic that the situation has stabilized.”
A separate outbreak at a winter road work camp affiliated with the Gahcho Kué mine is over. There have been no new associated cases since February 1 and all contacts have completed isolation.
Two more vaccine shipments to come
The NWT expects to receive a fourth shipment of 16,200 Moderna vaccine doses by the end of this week.
A fifth, smaller shipment is expected in late March, primarily for the three larger centres of Yellowknife, Hay River, and Inuvik.
“Provided the fifth shipment arrives on time and is the full allotment, roll-out to the general population is expected to begin in late March or early April,” Kandola said.
That means all adult residents would be on track to receive both doses by late April or, at the latest, mid-May, assuming the current gap between doses of up to six weeks is maintained.
That does not, however, mean restrictions may soon lift.
Kandola said restrictions may not change until health officials have more data regarding the vaccine’s impact on the transmission of Covid-19 between people.
“There is a consideration that the one population that is not vaccinated are those 18 and under, so they would be still susceptible to Covid or Covid outbreaks,” the chief public health officer said.
“These are all considerations we need to put in place around whether people still have to isolate for 14 days before they are free to move about the NWT.”
Kandola said her office is expanding priority populations based on the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Next up in Hay River, Inuvik, and Yellowknife will be “frontline workers who are essential workers but cannot work remotely,” she said. Examples include grocery store cashiers, teachers, people at day homes, and Canada Post workers.
Approximately 42 percent of adults in the NWT have so far received their first dose.
Anyone who is not in their community when a second-dose clinic is scheduled can get their second dose in another community. However, you’ll still need to follow your home community’s eligibility rules.
For example, someone from Yellowknife – where not all adults are yet eligible for the vaccine – cannot travel to Behchokǫ̀, where all adults are eligible, to receive a dose if they are not a priority population in Yellowknife.
Finally, looking ahead to March, Kandola advised against non-essential travel out of the NWT during spring breaks.