NWT teenagers aged 12 to 17 can begin receiving their Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 from Thursday afternoon, officials in the territory say.
The news came as federal agency Health Canada authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use with children aged 12 and up. Having initially said vaccinations would open for youth aged 16 and 17, on Wednesday afternoon the NWT government expanded that to include people as young as 12. Appointments are now available online.
“After completing a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department has determined that this vaccine is safe and effective at preventing Covid-19 when used in children between 12 and 15 years of age,” Health Canada said on Wednesday. Use in people aged 16 and 17 had already been approved.
A shipment of 1,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in the Northwest Territories on Tuesday. The vaccine requires two doses, ordinarily given three weeks apart.
Staff were being trained with the vaccine on Wednesday, Scott Robertson, the NWT’s Covid-19 operations co-lead, told Loren McGinnis on CBC North’s Trailbreaker.
Vaccination appointments for Yellowknife residents aged 16 and 17 begin on Thursday afternoon and are also being offered on Saturday afternoon.
Territorial medical director Dr AnneMarie Pegg told the broadcaster Yellowknife would be the starting focus for the rollout, “partly in response to the outbreak that we have going on, partly because it’s the biggest population of vulnerable people in that age group.”
Yellowknife has 20 confirmed and seven probable cases of Covid-19 related to an outbreak at the city’s NJ Macpherson School. The majority of those infected are children.
Dr Pegg added staff were “working hard” to subsequently offer the Pfizer vaccine to the rest of the territory.
According to July 2020 figures, there are just under 3,500 people aged 12 to 17 in the Northwest Territories.
Moderna’s vaccine against Covid-19, which has been used in the NWT to date, has not yet been authorized for use in people aged under 18.
Robertson said the NWT now had “a number of small transport freezers” to move the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at temperatures of -60C to -80C, around the territory.
“We’re working with Dr Kandola’s office to map out where the next priority communities will be,” he said, referring to the NWT’s chief public health officer.
Residents aged 18 and over don’t have access to the Pfizer vaccine to preserve the limited supply for younger people. Appointments for Moderna’s vaccine remain available for adults.
Robertson will appear on Cabin Radio’s Covid Corner, broadcast live via Facebook from 6pm MT on Wednesday, May 5, to take questions about the Pfizer vaccine’s rollout.
Sarah Pruys contributed reporting.