Riley Oldford, left, talks to a nurse practioner before becoming the first Yellowknife teenager to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on May 6, 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
The Northwest Territories government says Covid-19 vaccines will be available to all eligible children aged five to 11 across the territory by December 15.
Premier Caroline Cochrane said on Thursday the territory would receive an initial 6,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine later that day, enough for every NWT child in that age group to receive their first dose.
“Getting your child vaccinated is vital to protecting them from Covid-19,” Cochrane said, adding schools are considered high-risk environments for the spread of infection.
“Vaccinated students help prevent infections from occurring in schools and allow our schools to remain open for in-person learning.”
In Yellowknife, rollout begins on Thursday. Parents and caregivers of children aged five to 11 in the city will be able to book appointments from Thursday at 5:30pm, with the first appointments taking place on Friday.
Clinic dates in communities outside Yellowknife will be announced as the rollout progresses.
Children who have received the flu shot must wait at least 14 days before they can get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Health minister Julie Green said the territory is launching a vaccination education campaign targeted at parents and caregivers with the understanding that they “may be cautious” about immunizing their children.
“If you are a parent or caregiver of a child in this age group, I urge you to consider vaccinating your child,” the minister said.
Health Canada formally approved the vaccine for children aged five to 11 last week. Cochrane called that decision “an important milestone” in the fight against Covid-19.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said the vaccination of children in the NWT will mean greater protection against Covid-19, fewer school disruptions, less social isolation, and greater access to resources that support mental and physical wellbeing for children.
“I am confident in the safety and effectiveness of this approved vaccine for children in this age group,” she said. “Canada has a strong monitoring system for all vaccines and additional programs for monitoring pediatric vaccinations.”
Kandola recently announced she plans to allow children aged five to 11 who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to be exempt from self-isolation rules. To qualify for that exemption, they must get tested for Covid-19 on days one and eight after returning from travel outside of the NWT.
Parents or caregivers who are fully vaccinated returning to the NWT with babies aged zero to six months are not required to self-isolate. Unvaccinated travellers must self-isolate and can return to a small community after a negative Covid-19 test on day 10, or after 14 days.
As of November 20, 70 percent of the NWT’s total population and 83 percent of those over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.