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NWT to swap Moderna for Pfizer vaccines

The NWT is set to swap some of its Moderna vaccines for a shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, likely from B.C.

Health Minister Julie Green says the deal will likely be with B.C. and that details are still being finalized as to how many vaccines the NWT will be receiving.

“Introducing a second product into the NWT’s inventory will allow for a more flexible, sustainable and reliable COVID-19 vaccine program,” said Green in a press conference on Monday.

Prior to this point, the NWT only had received shipments of Moderna vaccines, because the territory did not have the freezers required to store the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees celsius.

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However, the NWT has purchased freezers so they will be able to store doses of the Pfizer vaccine, said Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, NWT’s medical director.

The swap is happening so residents under the age of 18 can start being vaccinated, according to Green. The Pfizer vaccine has undergone trials clearing it to be administered to people aged 16 and older, with tests currently underway to clear the vaccine for use in people aged 12 years and older.

If the Pfizer vaccine is cleared for people aged 12 and older, this could mean an additional 3,600 people are eligible to be vaccinated, according to NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola.

Kandola recently rolled back the GNWT’s target of getting 75 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated, saying the number of people who needed to be vaccinated would likely be higher than 75 per cent to achieve herd immunity.

“There’s not one exact percentage for herd immunity, but having the population of 16-17 immunized will definitely improve risks overall around outbreak spreads,” she said.

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Green added the “lull” that had been seen in the number of people getting vaccinated was continuing.

Currently, just over 20,000 people are fully vaccinated in the NWT, which is over half the eligible population.

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