Just over half of Nunavik adults have had 1st vaccine dose
‘There are still people to reach before we can expect some protection for the region,’ says public health director
It looks like Nunavik won’t meet its goal of immunizing 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March.
About 55 per cent of Nunavimmiut adults have received their first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine so far, or roughly 5,000 people, said Nunavik’s public health director Dr. Marie Rochette.
“We were able to offer a first dose to everyone by the beginning of March,” she said, adding there are some people who didn’t take the opportunity.
“We still need to do more communication to be able to reach these people.”
The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services launched a targeted vaccination campaign for high-risk groups in mid-January, and then ran mass immunization clinics in Nunavik’s 14 communities through the month of February.
The response has varied greatly, with immunization rates varying in communities from as high as 65 per cent to as little as 30 per cent, Rochette said.
“So there are still people to reach before we can expect some protection for the region,” she said.
Quebec has shipped a total of 6,000 vaccines to the region since January. Based on Nunavik’s uptake, some of those vaccines were re-allocated outside of the region, Rochette said. Nunavik could have had access to the 9,000 doses it would have needed to immunize its whole adult population this winter, but the need isn’t there just yet, she said.
Nunavik is expecting its next shipment of 6,400 vaccines at the end of March, which will prompt a new round of immunization clinics to administer second doses.
Rochette said health-care staff will continue to offer first doses to anyone who requests one.
In some cases, Nunavik’s first round of vaccination clinics only ran for a couple of days in certain communities, Rochette said, and bad weather or other major community events could have had a major impact on how many people showed up to get immunized.
A funeral held in one community at the same time as a vaccination clinic kept most residents away, she noted.
In the next round of clinics, she said health-care workers will stay five or six days to give ample opportunity for residents to come in.
Rochette also hopes that Nunavimmiut who may have been hesitant to get vaccinated will change their minds this time around.
“We know that some people said they wanted to wait and see others get vaccinated first, and see how it goes,” she said. “We hope that they see there’s no problem with the vaccine now.”
Nunavik’s health agency is following Quebec’s lead in administering the second dose of the vaccine within 16 weeks of the first one.
That means that Nunavimmiut who were vaccinated in the first week of Nunavik’s campaign in mid-January will need their second dose by May, and Rochette is confident that second doses can be offered throughout the region by then.
In the meantime, Nunavik remains COVID-19-free; three weeks have passed since the region reported a case of the virus.
Rochette said the health board has been in discussion with a Montreal-area health agency to offer an Inuit-specific vaccination site for Nunavik residents and other Inuit living in the city.
As Indigenous people, Nunavimmiut based outside the region may already be eligible to be immunized, depending on where they live.
As of now, a health agency in Montreal’s west end — the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du centre-ouest-de-l’île-de-Montréal — plans to open an Inuit-focused vaccination clinic at the beginning of April.
Rochette said the centre is planning to offer Inuktitut language service.