North

North still on track to get 75% of eligible population vaccinated, says federal minister

Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller says the country is still on track to meet its goal of administering two doses of the vaccine to 75 per cent of eligible people in high-risk regions before the end of March — despite a reduction in the amount of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines being shipped to Canada.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller confident despite reduction in Moderna vaccine shipments

Wayne Greenland, 59, gets the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Fort McPherson, N.W.T. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says Canada is still on track to vaccinate 75 per cent of the eligible population in northern and remote communities before the end of March. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The minister of Indigenous Services says the country is still on track to meet its goal of administering two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to 75 per cent of eligible people in high-risk regions before the end of March — despite a reduction in the amount of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines being shipped to Canada.

"The numbers for the first dose bear out that trend," Marc Miller said at a news conference on Thursday.

This comes after Prime Minister Trudeau said last week that Canada would receive about 50,000 fewer doses of the vaccine next month because of manufacturing issues at Moderna's plants.

Moderna is the only COVID-19 vaccine being used in Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut.

Miller said that as of Wednesday, vaccinations are underway in 321 First Nations and Inuit communities across Canada and 64,351 doses have been administered.

He singled out Nunavut, which he said has received 12,000 of the 37,500 doses it has been allocated by the federal government.

Miller said vaccine clinics are underway across the territory including Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove, Arviat, Baker Lake, Gjoa Haven, Grise Fiord, Igloolik and others.

"This is an extraordinary mobilization with huge logistical challenges in northern and remote communities," he said.

The Nunavut government has not yet said exactly how its vaccine deliveries might be affected by Moderna shipment delays.

"Any vaccine delays are being reviewed at an operational level, and the roll-out plan may be adjusted, if necessary," a government spokesperson wrote in a statement earlier this week. 

'I don't agree with the math'

Also on Thursday, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said at a news conference that he is in a disagreement with Ottawa over cuts to the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to the territory, suggesting Yukon is seeing an unreasonable reduction.

"I don't agree with the math," Silver said. "I don't agree, and I'll continue to push for us to receive expedited and bulk shipments into the Yukon." 

Silver confirmed Thursday the vaccination clinics planned for the general public next week in Whitehorse will be postponed because of slowdown in the delivery of Moderna vaccine doses.

"This is not what anybody wants to hear, and I know it's not the news I want to deliver either, but we do not control the supply of vaccines," said Silver.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said at a news conference on Thursday that he is in a disagreement with Ottawa over cuts to the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to the territory, suggesting Yukon is seeing an unreasonable reduction. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Earlier this week, N.W.T. premier Caroline Cochrane said that despite the shortages, the long-term outlook in the territory remains the same. 

"I'm confident the federal government will work to ensure we get the doses we need to meet our goal of vaccinating 75 per cent of the eligible adult population in the N.W.T.," she said.

Miller said the federal government is "moving as quickly as we can to ensure we're doing everything under the sun to get vaccines into arms and keep people safe for a longer period of time."

He said the best measure to counteract vaccine hesitancy in northern and remote communities is getting accurate information from local health leadership and local political leadership.

"That is where the trust is," he said.

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