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GNWT ‘waiting to hear back’ from federal government about vaccine delivery, could impact second doses

The territorial government is unsure about the size of future vaccine shipments, meaning the territory may not have enough COVID-19 vaccine for everyone to receive their dose.

In a press conference Tuesday, NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said the GNWT is unsure of the size of the fourth shipment of vaccines — the third shipment has already been confirmed to be smaller than expected.

Depending on that shipment, the GNWT may not have enough vaccines for everyone who has already received their first dose, and may have to push back their vaccine schedule.

“Since the beginning of our vaccine rollout we knew that the supply and delivery of doses are both out of our control,” Health Minister Julie Green said. “Our team has built a flexible vaccine delivery schedule to account for shipment delays and other unforeseen challenges and we want to reassure residents that we have a plan in place to fully utilize our vaccine supply over the coming weeks.”

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But Green said the GNWT is committed to having 75 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated by the end of March.

Second doses of the vaccine will be focused on elderly care home residents and workers, and then on members of priority groups more widely.

The GNWT has received two shipments of 7,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and the third shipment, which is still to be delivered, contains 4,700 doses of the vaccine. 

Currently the GNWT has administered 12,241 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning the NWT needs around 24,500 doses of the vaccine to give everyone the second dose, five thousand more than the federal government has confirmed the territory will receive.

Second doses have already been administered to some elderly care home patients in Yellowknife and Behchoko — with 125 residents receiving their second dose.

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Kandola said the GNWT is also monitoring data from trials in Quebec and the UK, where some people are receiving their second dose twelve weeks after the first, instead of the currently recommended range of between four and six week between doses.

The smaller vaccine shipment triggered a pause on the territory’s vaccine rollout, with first doses only being administered to people who already had appointments and resident rotational workers at Gahcho Kué. Those Gahcho Kué first doses are a priority for the GNWT moving forward, according to kandola.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that the federal government has signed contracts to produce vaccines domestically, in the hopes of combatting future supply issues.

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