The Northwest Territories government is working to move the needle on the number of residents who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in an effort to reach the 75 percent fully vaccinated target “sooner.”
The territory launched its “Drive to 75%” campaign on Thursday, to encourage vaccine uptake in the NWT as fall approaches and the prevalence of the Delta variant of Covid-19 grows across Canada.
“The next few weeks are going to be critical for us. And we need to work together to achieve the highest possible immunization rate while things are relatively quiet,” Dr Andre Corriveau, NWT’s acting chief public health officer, told reporters.
According to the latest data, 72 percent of the territory’s adult population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 77 percent are partially vaccinated. There are currently no active cases of Covid-19 in the NWT.
As part of the government’s new campaign, Covid-19 vaccines have been brought into “every community that has nursing presence,” according to Christina Carter, the territory’s acting director of public health and primary care.
“That is really allowing the public to access vaccines on a routine basis as opposed to sporadic traveling clinics that may have not met the individuals need for their scheduling and availability to access it,” she said.
Both Corriveau and Carter said the wide dispersement of vaccines was only possible now that the territory is no longer dealing with a limited supply.
Other initiatives underway include vaccine education, pop-up clinics, and increased community outreach.
‘Covid-19 is shifting to a pandemic of the unvaccinated’
The campaign comes shortly after Alberta announced plans to remove all Covid-19 public health measures and as Canada’s total count of active Covid-19 cases climbs to more than 8,000 – driven in part by the spread of the Delta variant. Over the last seven days, there were 5,229 cases across the country, and on Wednesday, there were 964 new cases.
“Evidence is showing that the Delta variant of Covid-19 is becoming the most common one across Canada and in most parts of the world in fact,” Corriveau said. “Covid-19 is shifting to a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
He said people who are unvaccinated are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to others who are unvaccinated or vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, there have been a total of 129 confirmed Covid-19 cases reported in the NWT, including one case of the Delta variant. No new cases have been reported in the last 12 days.
Reaching the 75 percent vaccination coverage target in the territory would trigger the next phase of the NWT’s Emerging Wisely plan. At that stage, anyone can travel into the territory, including for leisure purposes.
All visitors will still need an approved self-isolation plan or SIP.
Self-isolation plan problems
The territory has faced challenges keeping up with the number of self-isolation plan requests. The territory’s health minister, Julie Green, addressed the delays in self-isolation plan processing times in a Facebook post on July 28.
“We were not prepared for the volume: there are 2,609 SIPs pending today and that includes 835 new plans submitted this week,” she wrote.
“We are looking for a more efficient way of dealing with this information as soon as possible.”
Corriveau said “all possible efforts are being made right now to make the system as easy and automated as possible so that fully immunized travellers should be able to, now or very shortly, get an automated, immediate response.”
He also acknowledged the complexities of ongoing self-isolation requirements.
“It’s been hard on people, especially those who travel outside the NWT or wish to welcome visitors,” Corriveau said.
When travel restrictions are lifted, all fully vaccinated travellers will not have to self-isolate but must complete Covid-19 tests on day 14 if they travel directly to a small community.
Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travellers and their household members will still need to self-isolate. For those who are unvaccinated – which currently includes children under 12 years – they can leave isolation if they test negative on day 10. For those who are partially vaccinated, they can leave isolation if they test negative on day eight.