Update 3:15 p.m.: The GNWT has announced it will be offering Pfizer vaccine appointments to Yellowknife residents between the ages of 12 and 17.
The Pfizer vaccine was approved May 5 for use in children aged 12 years and older. Prior to this people had to be 16 or older to be administered with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The GNWT added in a statement that more doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be arriving in the territory in the coming weeks, allowing Pfizer vaccines to be administered in other NWT communities. Doses can be given three weeks apart, which should shorten the time to get people fully vaccinated, according to the GNWT.
The GNWT has requested 18,800 vaccine doses during the second quarter of 2021. The territory did exchange some of its Moderna vaccines in order to receive a shipment of Pfizer vaccines. However, the territorial government is keeping enough vaccine to ensure everyone can receive their second dose.
Pfizer vaccine appointments will open up for Yellowknife residents aged 16 and 17 years-old starting Thursday.
NWT received a shipment of 1,170 Pfizer vaccines on Tuesday, according to Scott Robertson, the NWT’s Covid-19 operations co-lead, speaking with CBC. Plans to do a vaccine swap with southern provinces who have access to the Pfizer vaccine were first announced Monday.
The swap is happening so residents under the age of 18 can start being vaccinated, according to Health Minister Julie Green. The Pfizer vaccine has undergone trials clearing it to be administered to people aged 16 and older. The Moderna vaccine is currently only cleared for people aged 18 and older.
Health Canada also approved the vaccine for use on children aged 12 years and older on Wednesday.
“It will also support the return to a more normal life for our children, who have had such a hard time over the past year,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser.
With the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 12 and older, this means 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.
Robertson said staff are currently being trained on how to administer the vaccine.
The GNWT acquired freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored around minus 70 degrees celsius.
Robertson added that priority communities are being identified so Pfizer vaccine appointments can be made available in other communities.