The GNWT has met with Indigenous and municipal governments as it tries to lock down its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
No deadline for when the plan will be released was given by NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, but she said it will be ready before vaccines are delivered.
“We’re anticipating that probably around mid-January, hopefully if the shipments arrive, that we can start rolling out the vaccines to priority populations,” Kandola said in a press conference Wednesday.
Logistics of how vaccines will be distributed to rural communities are still being figured out, but the vaccine storage freezers have been installed in Stanton Hospital and Inuvik.
In the meetings with Indigenous governments, the need for communication, especially with elders who are part of those priority populations set to get the first doses of COVID-19, was brought forward as key to running a successful vaccination program.
“One common theme was they are asking that we provide information on the vaccine in Indigenous languages or in a manner that they can communicate to elders, so they can have informed consent before they receive the vaccine,” Kandola said.
Mike Westwick, spokesperson for the GNWT’s COVID-19 response, said the territorial government has a French Language Secretariat and an Indigenous Languages Secretariat, who has interpreters on staff and strong relationships with contractors covering all official languages spoken in the NWT.
“We’ll be using [them] quite extensively, as well as community health representatives on the ground who speak local Indigenous languages, who we already work with on a regular basis,” said Westwick.
Kandola touted the GNWT’s success with its H1N1 vaccination campaign in 2009 — which saw 63 per cent of people vaccinated — as proof the GNWT’s communication and vaccine outreach programs can work.
Timelines for when vaccines will be distributed to the general public after priority populations have been vaccinated are looser, and depend on when vaccines are delivered, according to Kandola.
“What we’re hoping is that within three to four weeks of receiving our first shipment, we can receive our second shipment — we don’t know what that amount is,” Kandola said.
“Depending on that amount, we get the second shipment, if we have enough to to provide the second dose for our priority group,” she added. “And if there’s vaccines left over, we could — in the second shipment, start offering to the general population.”