Kusugak reassures Iqalummiut they’ll be vaccinated by end of March

Health minister addresses tweets that created “panic” about vaccination plans for Iqaluit

Six thousand doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Iqaluit on Dec. 30. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Mélanie Ritchot

A flurry of tweets from elected officials Friday created a “panic” in Iqaluit about what the Government of Nunavut’s plans are for vaccinating residents of the capital, but 24 hours later, Mayor Kenny Bell was calling it “all a misunderstanding.”

Bell tweeted Saturday evening he had just had a “good call” with Health Minister Lorne Kusugak and had been assured “that everyone that wants to be vaccinated in Iqaluit will be done by spring,” pending delivery of vaccine doses.

Bell’s tweet appeared to clear up confusion created Friday when Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone posted on Twitter a screenshot of an email he said he received from Kusugak on Thursday. That email said, due to vaccine shortages, the government will conduct community-wide vaccination clinics in every community except for Iqaluit. In Iqaluit, vaccinations were to be prioritized for the city’s “vulnerable populations.”

That prompted Lightstone and Bell to demand that decision be reversed and for Iqaluit’s vaccinations to be community-wide like in the rest of the territory.

However, in an interview with Nunatsiaq News on Saturday afternoon, Kusugak reassured Iqaluit residents that they will have the chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine in March.

Kusugak said Lightstone’s tweet caused “a real anxiety amongst the population.”

“I don’t blame them at all,” Kusugak said.

“If I was being told by my MLA that I’m not going to be vaccinated because … I’m twenty- something years old and I’m a plumber in Iqaluit … I would be upset too,” Kusugak said in an interview Saturday.

Lightstone, however, said he has sent multiple emails to the health minister asking when Iqaluit residents can start receiving the vaccine but has “never gotten a straight answer.”

Kusugak said he did have an email exchange with Lightstone on Thursday, the day before Lightstone posted the email on Twitter.

Kusugak said he explained to Lightstone that the amount of vaccines being delivered to Nunavut and the need to hold back second doses, “it does not give us the ability to do a mass public vaccine program in Iqaluit until March when Canada will be receiving larger amounts of doses that can be shipped to us.”

“There is a mass public vaccination program that will happen here. I told [Lightstone] that,” Kusugak said.


However, Lightstone said Saturday he is drafting a formal letter to the health minister with follow-up questions about the email he tweeted about. He said he wants to know if the minister intends to expand priority groups in Iqaluit.

Lightstone also said he wants to know whether people in their 20s or 30s in other communities will be prioritized to receive the vaccine before people in Iqaluit in their 50s with pre-existing conditions, for example.

Lightstone said he believes Iqaluit is the community at the highest risk for COVID-19 because it’s the main travel hub for people entering Nunavut — including workers exempt from the GN’s mandatory 14-day isolation.

Nunavut’s goal is to have 75 per cent of the territory’s adult population vaccinated by the end of March.

Kusugak said just under 1,000 Iqalummiut have already received their first dose of the vaccine and when there have been doses left over after other communities’ vaccination clinics, they have gone to people in Iqaluit.

If vaccine doses are delayed in arriving in Canada, Kusugak said there could be small delays in Nunavummiut receiving them, “but at the end of the day, there is definitely a plan to vaccinate every Iqalummiut who wants to be vaccinated in March.”

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(29) Comments:

  1. Posted by Greg on

    A lot of communities have not received their first doses. Those communities that are receiving their first doses are the voting base for the ministers in power. The Health Minister is from Rankin and we know they’re vaccinated there. The only community on Baffin Island with a scheduled upcoming vaccination clinic is Cape Dorset (the Education Minister’s home David Joanasie). Check it out here: https://gov.nu.ca/health/information/covid-19-vaccination
    Those ministers just want to make sure they stay in power and the way they keep their people happy is by getting them vaccines.

    • Posted by Shawn on

      Why are we in Clyde not getting vaccines yet . Sees like only ministers and premiers communities are getting it. Clyde is left out of everything . Why? No MLA .

  2. Posted by james on

    Please keep this story central. As well as 59 and under being denied their vaccine there is a problem with the GN, ministers and premier right now keeping too much secret and sending out important messages after the work day so now one can retailiate. Same thing happened to the schools on wednesday with the announcement for all the kids to go back everyday. Does this government care about the people of iqaluit? I dont think so.

    • Posted by Kitikmeot Resident on

      Hold up, let’s get a couple things straight here.
      Nunavut’s plan is to get vaccines out to the elders and communities with elders facilities. I’m sure they’re not picking their favourite communities….because Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven wouldn’t have been picked, we just got lucky we have elders facilities here.
      You ask if they care about iqaluit? Dude, Iqaluit gets everything and anything before any other community in Nunavut.
      The world is in a pandemic, there are only so many vaccines being created a day….quit being a smooth brained individual.

      Can I ask a question?
      Why does everyone in iqaluit think that they’re so important compared to the rest of Nunavut?

      • Posted by StaySafe on

        Iqaluit, and to a lesser extent, Rankin Inlet, are the main transportation and service hubs for Nunavut. If there are major pandemic outbreaks in Iqaluit affecting the airpot, all cargo and travel and medical service, not to mention QEC and airport maintenance are at risk.

        It makes perfect sense to ensure the critical hubs are vaccinated as a priority so that the communities reliant on their infrastructure will be part of a secure chain of health care, energy supply, etc.

        Iqaluit is more important because it is the dominant service hub for Nunavut’s 40,000 people. All jurisdictions in Canada have the exact same issue. When Winnipeg had to lock down all rural communities took a major hit. That’s just the way economics and government work worldwide.

          • Posted by Northern Guy on

            Every elder and health care worker in Nunavut should already be vaccinated.

  3. Posted by If they think this will blow over on

    … Then they can think again. Planning an announcement on a Friday night with the goal that it fizzles and is forgotten by Monday morning. Iqaluit is the heart of the territory. The hospital cannot handle an outbreak here any better than the community health centres. This is not 2500 population Arviat. This is well over 8000 people who keep all services running for the territory. Kusugak is playing politics and Main and MLAs better continue to scream about this. This seems to me to be racially motivated, scoring points from home ridings, while exposing everyone else here to more risk. We kept the lights on in March April May. We didn’t work from home. I’m just sick. This will not be forgotten at election time Main if you do not go hard at Cabinet for this.

  4. Posted by staying in bed on

    wouldnt want to be working in a school right now with all the kids back. so many kids but its good there wearing masks

  5. Posted by Priorities on

    To all you complainers:
    1. Show us your priority list.
    2. Show us where you are on that list.

  6. Posted by Perspective Matters on

    Let’s zoom out for a second.

    Consider that approx. 128 million doses of vaccine have been delivered worldwide as of Feb. 6th.

    The global population is approx. 7.8 billion

    So, .0164% of the world has received a vaccine. Granted, I am unsure if this accounts for the first and second shots, or what…

    Either way, we are currently the top 1/10th of 1 percent globally. There are people in the world who will not receive the vaccine for months, maybe not even this year.

    if someone wants to correct my math that’s fine, but I doubt it will change much.

    Be thankful and know we are very privileged.

    After exploiting our grievance and anger over an allegation that we would be low priority for the Government of Canada I’d be curious to know how our MP feels about us being among the first in the entire world.

    Do you have anything positive to say about this Mumilaaq?

    • Posted by Paradigm Shift on

      Something else to consider here, and it is true we are more fortunate right now than we seem to realize, but had our MP injected herself into the process, which is to say had she worked with the Liberal government on securing the current supply this could have come off as a big victory for her.

      “I’ve been working with the Government and am pleased to announce we will be among the first recipients of the Moderna vaccine in Canada”.

      *BAM… great optics*

      This was really a missed opportunity for the NDP and our MP to capture some of the Liberal thunder, and the Liberals will surely use this in the next election, as they should.

    • Posted by Glass Half Empty on

      What part of being lucky to be a Canadian provides excuses to politicians to try and sweep this announcement under the rug?
      Why would the GN decision here be immune from criticism just because Canada has received vaccines ahead of third world countries?
      I’m glad you can shrug off poor decisions and live with rose colored glasses but do you have anything to actually say besides lecturing pessimists be thankful?

      • Posted by Perspective Matters on

        I agree, the GN handled it’s communication with the city very poorly and unprofessionally. Clearly there should have been some kind of messaging between the two before this became public. It sounds like the relationship between them is probably a bit dysfunctional. How can that be fixed?

    • Posted by Observer From Afar on

      Although this doesn’t change the argument in any way . . . using your numbers, I think the actual percentage vaccinated is actually 1.64%, NOT 0.0164%. Your result is off by a factor of 100.

      Regardless, the vaccination rate is still less than 2% . . . using your numbers.

      • Posted by Perspective Matters on

        You’re right, I didn’t properly convert from the decimal space. My mistake.

        Still, I’d say we are quite fortunate overall.

  7. Posted by Blizzard Warning – Cause by Human Ignorance on

    This is what happens when you have weak MLA’s like Adam looking for praise and a Mayor and a Councilor who put fear in people.
    The Mayor should have contacted the Minister before going public and he should have been working with the Minister throughout this process and he would have been informed. Councilor Sheppard is the Mayor’s yes man.
    People need to understand that we are in a pandemic and access to the vaccination is changing daily. We must remain patient, we are not going anywhere.

    • Posted by Transparency on

      Transparency is only as good as the people who control the distribution of information. You’re absolutely right to criticize this lot of social media politicians. They have their own respective agendas and flaws. Knowing our mayor, he’ll pat himself on the back and tell himself “we got the GN to commit to april vaccinations!” when that was probably the plan all along.
      To our local leaders: dumping all your anxieties and thoughts onto your constituents isn’t “transparent government”, it’s called being neurotic. And saying “sorry I have no filter” doesn’t excuse you from being a crappy leader.

  8. Posted by Wondering on

    Question. Have all the Cabinet Ministers been vaccinated?

  9. Posted by Peter on

    Its nice to see our Minister of Health back peddling a bit after releasing a letter on a Friday about Iqaluit not getting vaccinated for 60 and under, almost went through without it being noticed but thank you Adam for catching it and getting it out there, with essential workers and 60 and over getting their shots here in iqaluit it almost made it look as if Iqaluit was part of the vaccination program for everyone over 18, almost.
    Now if there are no delays in receiving the vaccines we could get our first shots end of March beginning of April, if there are delays then maybe much later while the communities where the Ministers come from are getting ready for their second vaccine. Got to admit they played this one very well even with some back peddling.

  10. Posted by boris pasternak on

    Iqaluit get the vaccination while you can…too many ple like Arviat who will not obey any rules imposed to the community. this is way Arviat is going on to four months in few days just because the council is to timid to have night watchmen driving around at night to ask ppl to go home (what do you do with two trucks? By-Law ppl driving around aimlessly, shopping, driving girl friends, family members). if Iqaluit has any dissenters like Arviat has, watch out, constant new cases.

  11. Posted by Bert Rose on

    Why is all this noise being made about a widely read and rolled out vaccination plan?
    This makes no sense.
    Want to know when a vaccination clinic will be delivered? Ask your nurse or public health.
    Grumbling here does no good

  12. Posted by Tom on

    A little worrisome when you see flights coming in from Arviat to Rankin, know there are still cases in Arviat, people coming in to visit friends and family without getting tested or isolating. Hopefully our luck keeps going and no one infected will travel out of Arviat.

    • Posted by boris pasternak on

      keep your fingers cross Rankin; which out for WPG, YK and Iqaluit flights to Rankin as will, it’s a world-wide disease…respecter of no person, nor selective to whom it will enter.

  13. Posted by No vaccine on

    I would like to thank Adam for getting this out, you are doing a great job, keep up the good fight, now for our other two MLAs I’d like to hear from you also, where do you stand on this issue?
    We have not heard a word from our other Iqaluit MLAs.

    • Posted by Actually on

      We actually have 4 MLA’s in total.
      With that being said if you rolled them all up together you would be lucky to get one.
      We have heard or seen very little from all of them, and this goes back even before the Covid-19 Pandemic.
      Adam is an ambulance chaser, he only shows up when he hears a srien
      It seems like the are floating down the river and do not want to rock the boat…just putting in the time until the pensions are ready.

      • Posted by No Vaccine on

        OMG! I forgot we had 4 MLAs, it is true we really never hear much from our Iqaluit MLAs, this needs to change and they need to stand up and ask the tough questions to why Iqaluit is being left. Adam is not getting any response from the Premier and the Minister of Health, a joint letter from the 4 MLAs is needed, maybe then the GN will guarantee Iqaluit will get its first dose of the vaccine for everyone over 18.
        No guarantees right now only some political promise and we all know how that works out.

  14. Posted by Thanks on

    Thanks for the leftover vaccines, greatly appreciated 😷🙄

  15. Posted by Timeclock on

    So it is now the middle of February. They have two weeks to get me my first dose in Iqaluit in order for me to be vaccinated by end of March. No clinics announced. They seem to vaccine 49 people a day according to online trackers. Good luck with 8000 in Iqaluit.
    Next it will be ‘both shots by June’. Kusugak has no credibility.

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