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Iqaluit elders receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Josephee Adams, 70, a resident of the Iqaluit Elders’ Home, was the first person in the territory to receive the Moderna vaccine. Premier Joe Savikataaq told CBC that about 28 elders will receive a vaccination on Wednesday.

'Anyone who wants to get the vaccine will be vaccinated,' says Premier Joe Savikataaq

Josephee Adams, 70, is the first vaccine recipient in Nunavut. He's a resident of the Iqaluit Elders' Home. The Moderna vaccine was administered by long-time Iqaluit public health nurse Susie Pearce, a graduate of the Nunavut Arctic College’s Bachelor of Science Nursing. (Government of Nunavut)

The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered to elders in Nunavut on Wednesday. 

Josephee Adams, 70, a resident of the Iqaluit Elders' Home, was the first person in the territory to receive the Moderna vaccine. Premier Joe Savikataaq told CBC that about 28 elders will receive a vaccination on Wednesday. 

At this time, only elders at the facility are being vaccinated. 

The territory's strategy to roll out the vaccine is based on the federal one, which includes prioritizing remote and Indigenous communities, Savikataaq said.

Starting next week, vaccinations will take place in Arviat, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik and Cambridge Bay. Front-line health staff will also be vaccinated; residents will need an appointment.

Savikataaq said those communities were chosen because they have elders centres, which are the most vulnerable. While health officials are in those communities, they will also vaccinate the general adult population by appointment.

"Anyone who wants to get the vaccine will be vaccinated," Savikataaq said.

The Moderna vaccine is administered in two doses and is most effective if the second dose is given between 28 to 30 days later.

'The outbreak is not over yet'

The premier said anyone who's been vaccinated and travels South will still need to isolate before returning to Nunavut, since they still need the second dose. As well, he cautioned that the vaccine only stops the symptoms of COVID-19; it's not clear if it will stop the transmission of the disease. 

Savikataaq said Nunavummiut still need to practise all the public health measures, like physical distancing and hand washing.

"The outbreak is not over yet," he said.

As of Sunday, the territory reported it has zero active cases of COVID-19. Nunavut has had a total of 266 cases since the start of the pandemic.

However, Savikataaq said they need two full weeks since the last positive case before they deem a community COVID-19 free.

Nunavut received about 6,000 doses of the vaccine last week. About 3,000 residents will be inoculated in the first round. Shipments of the vaccine are expected every other week, the chief public health officer has said.

"The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel," Savikataaq said.

He said he'll be lining up for the vaccine, which he said is tested and safe, when it's his turn.

The territory expects to receive enough doses of the vaccine to inoculate 19,000 residents, or 75 per cent of the eligible adult population, by the end of March.

Dates scheduled for community vaccinations, by appointment, are: 

  • Gjoa Haven: Jan. 11-12 at the Qiqirtaq High School from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Second doses are on Feb. 8-9.

  • Igloolik: Jan. 11-12 at the Iglulik High School from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Second doses are on Feb. 8-9.

  • Arviat: Jan. 14-18 (except Sunday) at the Qitiqliq Middle School from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Second doses are on Feb. 11-15. 

  • Cambridge Bay: Jan. 14-16, location to be determined, from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Second doses are on Feb. 11-13. 

With files from John Eetuk

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