Vaccination against Covid-19 is now open to all Yellowknife adults, the last remaining major adult population in the NWT to be given the go-ahead.
Though a small number of adults remain ineligible by virtue of their health status or other concerns, Wednesday’s announcement means the vaccine is now in essence available to every NWT adult.
“I’m pleased to report we are ahead of schedule,” said the territory’s health minister, Julie Green.
“We can soon say that all eligible residents of the NWT have been offered the vaccine.”
Green urged residents who have their first dose to ensure they receive a second, stating full immunization would give “stronger and longer-lasting protection.”
The minister said vaccine manufacturer Moderna had recently issued new guidelines that allow jurisdictions to wait up to four months between first and second doses, a much longer time frame than the current window of four to six weeks.
“The four-month interval will allow us more flexibility in scheduling and, importantly, won’t change the current schedules,” Green said.
In the moments after Wednesday’s announcement was made, the NWT health authority’s online booking website began operating an online queueing system to cope with demand for appointments.
Meanwhile, the territory said it was reviewing Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved vaccine but did not expect to receive an allotment of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The NWT government said out-of-territory workers who meet criteria established by the chief public health officer had been receiving doses of the Moderna vaccine in the territory. So far, approximately 150 people had received exemptions under those criteria, the territory said.
“We have moved from scarcity of vaccine to now having a strong supply to enable us to shift priority groups quickly,” said Green, who added the territorial government had requested an extra 12,000 vaccine doses to immunize up to 6,000 out-of-territory workers.
“These vaccines will ensure NWT residents are protected,” the minister said, referring to work sites like mines at which the territory’s residents and out-of-territory workers mix.
At some times of day, vaccination no-show rates at clinics are concerning, the territory’s medical director said.
Dr AnneMarie Pegg told reporters the “phenomenal” vaccination rate had been accompanied by some appointments being abandoned, potentially leading to wastage of vital doses.
“During certain time slots where people are maybe a bit preoccupied with other things – particularly right after work and Saturday mornings – we are noticing a significant no-show rate, sometimes up to 40 percent,” said Pegg.
“That’s an appointment someone else can take. Vaccine doses are very precious and every time we open a vial of vaccine, we want to make sure the entire vial gets used.”
Pegg asked people to use the online cancellation button if they can no longer make an appointment.
Emily Blake and Sarah Sibley contributed reporting.