The NWT will switch to an “on-demand approach” toward vaccination against Covid-19 once the current round of clinics wraps up, health officials announced on Thursday.
The territory’s medical director, Dr AnneMarie Pegg, told reporters the GNWT will stop scheduling touring clinics. Residents in hub communities will still be able to access the vaccine by appointment. A walk-in option will be available in Yellowknife starting April 12.
“For smaller and more remote communities, anyone who wants the vaccine will call their health centre … and we will determine the best way to ensure that people get timely access,” Pegg said.
“This would include planning for on-demand mini-clinics in communities if this was deemed necessary.”
Pegg said mobile and pop-up vaccine clinic options were being explored for Yellowknife. Details will be available on the NWT health authority’s website when finalized.
Moderna’s vaccine against Covid-19 has been available to all 34,400 eligible adults in the NWT for weeks. As of April 3, 24,103 people had received their first shot in the NWT while 14,471 had received both. (The figures include a small number of non-residents vaccinated while in the NWT. The territory does not precisely break down that number.)
The GNWT had previously stated vaccination of 75 percent of the eligible population would be the benchmark for herd immunity against the virus responsible for Covid-19.
However, in recent weeks, officials have backed away from that figure.
Health minister Julie Green told the legislature last month the 75-percent mark “is now in question” and may need to change due to uncertainty about the vaccine’s impact on virus transmission and the development of variant forms of the virus.
Chief public health officer Dr Kami Kandola took care on Thursday to use the phrase “community protection” instead of herd immunity.
“We cannot truly achieve herd immunity in the Northwest Territories yet,” she said. “A significant portion of our population, those under 18, are unable to be vaccinated at this time.”
Variants, Emerging Wisely review
There are currently three Covid-19 cases in the territory involving the B117 variant of the virus, also known as the UK variant as it was first identified in the United Kingdom.
That variant is considered easier to pass from person to person and capable of causing more severe infection in adults. Research suggests the Moderna vaccine remains effective against the UK variant.
Kandola said the arrival of the variant in the NWT was “not welcome” but the territory was “prepared.”
“The same preventive measures that protect you and your communities from the original Covid-19 virus are effective against these variants,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kandola restated she would review the NWT’s Emerging Wisely pandemic recovery plan by the end of this month, despite the emergence of variant cases.
Restrictions involving travel limitations, isolation, and limits on gatherings have been governed by the Emerging Wisely plan since last May. The NWT has been in phase two of the plan’s four phases since last June.
Kandola said the next changes will “likely be small, local ones such as outdoor gatherings, an increasing capacity for businesses.”
“As vaccinations progress across the North and Canada and transmissions start falling elsewhere, more targeted and permissive self-isolation protocols and travel restrictions may be considered,” she added.