Freezers arrive in Nunavut to store Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

Freezers will add to storage capacity in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet

Canadian Armed Forces members and cargo workers unload medical-grade freezers from a C-130J Super Hercules on Saturday, Dec. 12, in Iqaluit. (Photo by Frank Reardon)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut’s Department of Health is preparing for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in the territory in the new year.

Two medical-grade freezers from the Public Health Agency of Canada arrived in Iqaluit over the weekend to store the vaccine, said Dr. Michael Patterson, the chief public health officer, at Monday’s news conference.

There are enough syringes, needles and alcohol swabs — needed to give the shots — in the territory.

The Health Department will have to recruit more staff to actually give the shots, Patterson said, but there are enough people working with the department to organize the rollout of the vaccine.

“Our health staff has experience, and understand the challenges we face,” Patterson said.

Nunavut is expecting to get enough doses in the first three months of 2021 to vaccinate 75 per cent of its adult population.

The vaccine isn’t yet approved for Nunavummiut under 18 years old, Patterson said. It will take longer for Moderna to be approved for children, he said, and if that doesn’t happen, there are other vaccines being reviewed.

“We will look at one of those for children,” he said.

Patterson doesn’t know how the delivery of the vaccine will be scheduled. If Nunavut gets a small amount of doses early in the year, they will go to elders and long-term care residents, as well as staff who work in long-term care facilities.

If Nunavut gets enough of the vaccine in January, the Health Department may host mass immunization clinics to vaccinate as many adults as possible.

The Health Department has also reached out to shelters and correctional facilities to ask how many people typically stay in those places, and the number of staff. These places may be prioritized, depending on how much vaccine Nunavut gets in the first few weeks, Patterson said.

Health Canada is currently reviewing the vaccine, Patterson said.

“People have asked if the vaccine is safe — it is,” he said.

He and the premier, Joe Savikataaq, are urging Nunavummiut to do their own research about the Moderna vaccine.

Patterson said reliable sources include Canada’s public health agency and Health Canada. The Government of Nunavut will also start to publish information about the vaccine.

He said stories that rely on unverified anecdotes aren’t trustworthy. Information should be properly cited, and show up on more than one news site.

Public health restrictions won’t automatically be lifted as soon as people are vaccinated, Patterson said. “We’ll start to see measures eased bit by bit.”

Meanwhile, nine more positive cases were reported in Arviat on Monday, bringing the total number of infections to 49. In total, 165 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Arviat.

Patterson said he’s not sure why the number of infections continue to grow in Arviat, while Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Sanikiluaq were able to contain the infections in 14 days.

It’s possible that COVID-19 spread further and faster in Arviat than other communities before anyone knew it was present, he said. As well, there are more crowded households on average in Arviat than most other communities, Patterson said.

Most people who get the disease don’t spread it to anyone, or they only spread it to one or two people, Patterson said. Rarely, someone is a “super spreader,” he said, which means they spread to it multiple people.

“So it may have been partly bad luck that there was at least one super-spreader in Arviat,” he said.

The GN will give another COVID-19 update on Friday at 11 a.m. EST.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ikaluktutiak on

    Why are there freezers for Rankin and Iqaluit, but not Cambridge Bay? Why is the Kitikmeot ALWAYS ignored and forgotten?!

    • Posted by Cambaymiut on

      We already have a freezer capable of storing material at -20 C. It’s called “outside”.

    • Posted by StaySafe on

      Kitikmeot is being supplied by Yellowknife directly.

  2. Posted by Thankful on

    I’m just thankful I don’t need to take it for another 7 months due to my pregnancy. I’m glad ill be on the sidelines staying at home being safe watching everyone else get it first

    • Posted by Alex Alikashuak on

      As of yet , they have not found a cure for cancer and other life threatening diseases , how could they possibly find a vaccine for Covid-19 in such a short time ?

      • Posted by Maripolle on

        Come on Alex, cancer and viruses are not the same things. Are you hinting that the vaccine is a fraud in some way?

      • Posted by Logic fail on

        Cancer is a broad category of disorders caused by genetic glitches. Covid-19 is caused by a virus. Think Polio, Hepatitis A, B, Rubella, Measles, Mumps and a bunch of other diseases that we’ve developed effective vaccines for.

        • Posted by ANITA ISSALUK on

          It took 18 years for ebola vaccine to become available, because the ebola was contained mostly in certain areas of the world. But Covid 19 is so deadly and accumulated so rapidly globally, the whole world went into a pandemic state, requiring almost every country to step forward quickly to find a vaccine to fight it, the covid 19. It is good that there was a race almost to find the right vaccine bcause it effected millions in such a short time, and that vaccine will save lives all the way to nunavu

  3. Posted by More vaccine for me on

    This territory is giving states in the southern USA a run for it’s money for ignorance about COVID, science, public health, etc.
    All our experts say the vaccine is safe, yet people are listening to skeptical people who have no idea what they’re talking about.
    The sketics have one thing right: we ARE guinea pigs. But we’re not Health Canada/science’s guinea pigs, we’re Facebook and Youtube’s guinea pigs. You want to talk about not conforming and not having “things” implanted in you? Then get off Facebook. Their AI is doing more damage to you than a thousand vaccines could.
    This is called Digital Colonialism, where a bunch of Silicon Valley engineer AI algorithms that shape our behaviour and way of thinking. And Nunavummiut fell for it again….we conplain about Canada being the ultimate colinizer when the worst of them all is right under our nose and no one is talking about it. Facebook is ensuring that the undereducated in Nunavut become ignorant, making them angrier, more skeptic about things they don’t need to be angry about, distrust in government (we should be skeptic of government but not because a meme told us so-and-so is a corrupt elite). It’s like Facebook is now a part of our culture and people who don’t partake are the oddballs.
    If you’re not taking the vaccine because you don’t want to be a guinea pig or whatever, guess what, you probably already are a guinea pig and you don’t know it.

    • Posted by thatinukguy on

      I agree with More vaccine for me, too many people rely on social media to get medical advice from whack job conspiracist and not do any research on their own, I personally would rather take advice from medical experts

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