Nunavut’s supply of Pfizer vaccines expected for 2nd week of June
Almost 10,000 doses will be enough to fully vaccinate territory’s teenage population
Nunavut is expecting to receive its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 sometime during the week of June 7.
Health Canada approved the vaccine for those 12 and older earlier this month.
The 9,360 doses expected in Nunavut will be enough to fully vaccinate the territory’s teenage population.
Although a rollout plan for the Pfizer vaccine has yet to be finalized, the Department of Health said that Iqaluit will be prioritized given the extent of the outbreak there.
At points during Iqaluit’s outbreak, which began in mid-April, more than 20 per cent of those infected were under the age of 18.
Some youth will require parental consent to receive the vaccine, while others may be able to provide their own consent. That’s because Nunavut doesn’t have a legal age of majority, the threshold where adulthood is recognized in law.
The ability to consent for those under 18 will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
“It depends on the circumstances and the maturity level of the child and the comfort level of the health-care provider, when they’re deciding if somebody under 18 is able to provide informed consent,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, during a news conference on May 17.
Informed consent is when an individual can demonstrate that they understand the medical issue and understand the pros and cons of the vaccine.
According to Dr. Scott Halperin, a professor of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology at Dalhousie University and the director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, adolescents generally have good vaccine uptakes because doses are often administered in schools.
“Parents are concerned about their kids,” he said.
“Even parents who don’t immunize themselves still get their kids immunized.”
Some parents may think their children can get by without a vaccine because of information out there that suggests children have been less affected by COVID-19, said Halperin.
But he said he believes the higher rates of youth infection in the pandemic’s third wave may dissuade this thinking.
As of May 24, 14,113 Nunavummiut are fully vaccinated and another 2,931 are partially vaccinated.
When it comes to vaccines that are offered in multiple doses, like Moderna, Halperin said roughly eight to 10 per cent of people won’t get a second shot.
“It's not accepted, it's expected,” said Halperin, though he hopes that with the COVID vaccines, that’s won't be the case.
Halperin said there has long been a push by medical professionals to get a registry to electronically see who has been immunized and follow up that.
A lot of progress has been made on that for pediatric vaccines, he said, but these types of records for adults have historically lagged behind.
Now, with vaccines against COVID-19, Halperin says all jurisdictions have put a digital system in place to see who was immunized, when they were immunized and with what product.
These electronic systems will allow for follow-ups.
“If anything is passive, then you're going to get those larger drop offs,” said Halperin.
“But if it's an active pursuit of people, to remind them, then you tend to do better.”
Unlike other territories that have begun to announce reopening plans, particularly for those fully vaccinated, Nunavut has been quiet.
“We have a higher proportion of people that are not vaccinated and can't get the vaccine,” said Patterson during a news conference on May 19.
“The risks are different for us.”
Halperin says looking at the whole population is beneficial when trying to move towards herd immunity.
“If we think that herd immunity has to be 75 per cent, just as an example, but you have 25 per cent of your population not eligible for the vaccine, then you would have to see 100 per cent uptake of the eligible population,” he said.
Approximately 25 per cent of Nunavut’s population is under the age of 12 and currently ineligible for a vaccine.