Nunavut begins COVID-19 vaccinations
“This is a major milestone along Nunavut’s path”
Nunavut will give out its first COVID-19 vaccinations today to elders in Iqaluit.
Then, as the next step, vaccinations will be offered next week to residents in Gjoa Haven, Igloolik, Cambridge Bay and Arviat, in an effort to protect communities with long-term elder care facilities.
“This is a major milestone along Nunavut’s path and one that we are excited about,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, during the first COVID-19 news conference of the year on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
“Immunization is voluntary but I do encourage as many eligible Nunavummiut as possible to take the vaccine. It is currently the best protection Nunavummiut can have.”
The first 6,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in the territory last week, but Patterson said that only 3,000 of those will initially be administered, because the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose between 28 and 30 days after the first one.
“This will ensure that the necessary doses are available if the second shipment of the vaccine, expected later this month, is delayed,” said Patterson.
Nunavut’s early vaccination efforts focus on communities with long-term elder care facilities, because the virus poses a greater risk to older adults.
“It’s important to get them protected as quickly as we can,” said Patterson.
Here is Nunavut’s current COVID-19 vaccination schedule:
- January 6: Elders facility in Iqaluit
- January 11-12: Gjoa Haven and Igloolik
- January 14-18 (excluding Sunday): Arviat
- January 14-16: Cambridge Bay
Patterson asked that residents in these communities call their health centre to book an appointment.
For Nunavummiut who have received a flu shot, the process will be mostly familiar, except that the vaccines will be administered at facilities such as school gymnasiums and community halls, to allow residents to practise physical distancing.
Patterson estimates that nurses will be able to administer between eight and 12 doses an hour.
Health staff will return to these communities four weeks later to administer the second doses of the vaccine.
If residents miss a vaccination session, Patterson said that there will be some supply of the vaccine left in most communities where it has already been administered.
Additional vaccination clinics will be scheduled based on additional vaccine shipments and remaining doses from previous clinics, Patterson said.
Patterson said he expects the next shipment of vaccines to arrive before the end of January.
“The next set of criteria we’re looking at will be communities that have a greater risk of introduction of COVID-19 [and] greater difficulty accessing medical care,” he said.
Patterson says that by the end of March, Nunavut should receive around 19,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 75 per cent of the adult population.
As of Dec. 30, the outbreak of COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet was declared over and restrictions there were eased.
Nunavut recently declared itself COVID-19 free, but health officials continue to urge residents to take precautions.
For more information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, including community-specific information and vaccination schedules, visit the Government of Nunavut’s website.