'A great relief': COVID-19 vaccinations scheduled to begin Jan. 4 in Yukon

Yukon Health Minister Pauline Frost said COVID-19 vaccinations will begin early January after the Moderna vaccines arrived in Whitehorse Monday evening.

7,200 doses arrived in the territory Monday

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, Health Minister Pauline Frost and Community Services Minister John Streicker were on the tarmac when the vaccine arrived Monday in Whitehorse. (Mark Kelly Photography/Government of Yukon)

Yukon Health Minister Pauline Frost said COVID-19 vaccinations will begin in early January after Moderna vaccines arrived in Whitehorse Monday evening.

Yukon, along with the other territories, was waiting for the Moderna vaccine to arrive to begin their vaccination programs. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is already being distributed in other jurisdictions, but all three territories lack the health infrastructure necessary to safely store that vaccine, which must be kept at around -70 C to remain stable.

Frost said Yukon's shipment contained 7,200 doses, with more doses expected to arrive next month. The Moderna vaccine requires two doses, administered 28 to 35 days apart. 

Frost stood on the tarmac alongside Premier Sandy Silver and Community Services Minister John Streicker when the vaccine arrived Monday in Whitehorse.

"You can only imagine standing there on the tarmac and the flights arriving and knowing that we had the vaccines arriving after such a long hard run in the Yukon … with COVID[-19]."

"We clapped, and jumped, and high-fived, and it was … just a great relief."

She said the territory has three teams dedicated to the vaccines, two that are mobile and one that is based in Whitehorse at the Yukon Convention Centre.

Training underway

This week, the teams are being trained on handling and administering the vaccine as there are "very special protocols" that need to be followed, Frost said.

The first vaccination is scheduled to take place on Jan.4, she said.

"Right after the new year we will administer the first vaccine in our long-term care homes," said Frost.

The first vaccines will go to healthcare workers in long-term care facilities, elderly people, and then they will be deployed out to the communities.

The plan, she said, is to get 75 per cent of the territory's adult population vaccinated by the end of March.

She said there is still work to be done in terms of education around the vaccine, but that it was important for people to get vaccinated.

"We all have to do our part, and so I would just encourage everyone that is able to, to get vaccinated," Frost said.

"Just to do the right thing."

The territorial government's vaccine strategy can be found here.

with files from George Maratos and Jane Sponagle