All adults in N.W.T. now eligible for booster shot, say top docs

Dr. Kami Kandola and Dr. Anne MariePegg answered listeners' questions on The Trailbreaker Thursday morning. "We will be offering booster doses as of today to anyone in the territory 18 or over as of December 31," Pegg said.

Officials said people can get their booster shots 6 months after receiving the 2nd dose

Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer, and Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, territorial medical director, answered listeners' questions about COVID-19 live on The Trailbreaker on Thursday morning. (CBC)

All adults in the N.W.T. are now eligible for a booster shot, says the territory's top doctors.

The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, and Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, the territory's medical director, took listeners' questions live on The Trailbreaker Thursday morning.

"I am happy … to announce that under the direction of Dr. Kandola and her team that we will be offering booster doses as of today to anyone in the territory 18 or over as of December 31 of this year," Pegg said.

Pegg said people should not show up for walk-ins to get the shot. "There are vaccine clinic times listed by health centre and instructions for how people can go about booking those appointments," she said.

Booster shots should come six months after the second dose.

There is also a distinction between booster doses and third doses, according to a news release from the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.

"A booster contains less vaccine product than a third full dose," it says. "If you are immune-compromised you may be eligible for a third dose instead of a booster so please tell your healthcare provider at your immunization appointment."

Booster doses are also only available to N.W.T. residents right now. Residents who don't yet have an N.W.T. health card should bring proof of residence (like a utility bill, job offer, or a driver's license with an N.W.T. address) to their appointment. It also says non-residents should follow the COVID-19 vaccine schedule of their home province.

In Yellowknife, online bookings for the booster are encouraged; though if people are unable to book online, limited walk-ins are accepted between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. For appointments outside of Yellowknife, visit the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority website.

Here are the top questions from the live call-in show:

If you don't get the booster, will you still be considered fully vaccinated?

"Absolutely," said Kandola. "The booster is optional. Criteria for fully vaccinated is two weeks after your last dose with the second dose."

Can we get the COVID-19 booster shot at the same time as the flu vaccine appointment?

Yes, said Pegg, people can get the COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine appointment.

"If you've made an appointment for one you can just ask for the other and vice versa so they can both be given at the same time," she said.

If people have COVID-19, how long should they wait to get vaccinated?

Pegg said people need to wait until their infection "has been declared resolved by a member of the public health staff."

Once they're no longer contagious, and considered recovered from COVID-19, then they can get vaccinated.

"Initially there was a recommendation to wait about three months but as our knowledge of this virus has expanded, that waiting period is no longer necessary," Pegg said.

"What we do know is that people who have recovered from COVID and then go on to get vaccinated do have a very, very good immune response. And so, it's very much recommended that once people are recovered from their infection, if they haven't been fully vaccinated, to go ahead and organize to do so."

When can children under 12 get vaccinated against COVID-19?

There are two separate trials underway for children under five, Kandola said, one for infants six months to two years and one for children two years to five years. 

"The clinical data submission for the two to five would occur within this calendar year. And it's whenever Health Canada approves that submission," Kandola said. 

Health Canada is currently reviewing Pfizer-BioNTech's submission of its COVID vaccine for children five to 12 years of age.

"So, we could probably expect some news in the very, very near future," Pegg said.

"Certainly the teams here are gearing up in anticipation that that is going to be approved shortly."

She said they'll be ready to roll that out as soon as Health Canada gives the green light. 

As well, Pegg said some "good news" about the preparation of the vaccine for children is that it is a smaller dose than what's given to adults."

She said it's "stable in a fridge for longer which is good news for us in terms of being able to offer that vaccine with a little bit more ease and flexibility."

Are first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine still available?

Yes, both first and second doses are still available for all eligible people. Those who are fully immunized (two doses) still have strong protection against COVID-19, including the delta variant.

Missed the show? Watch is here: 

Cases in territory in decline

The phone-in comes as the number of cases in the territory continues to go down. Yesterday, the Office of the Chief Public Health reported there were 194 cases in the territory. The number of cases peaked at 460 on Oct. 7.

However, the number of cases continues to increase in Hay River and K'atl'odeeche First Nation, where public health orders are in place to contain the spread. The number of cases reached 65 Wednesday, an increase of 15 since last Friday. 

On Wednesday, Kandola extended the containment order for Behchokǫ after consulting with local leadership, because there continues to be community transmission. On Tuesday, the territorial government announced a community-based COVID-19 screening program called DetectNWT that allows businesses and organizations to administer rapid antigen tests to employees who work with the public.

On Monday, schools in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah reopened after being closed since Sept. 13. On Wednesday, students in two classes from the N.J. Macpherson School were sent home after they were exposed to a COVID-19 case in their classrooms. They will return to remote learning for the next 10 days.

Last Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola eased the gathering restrictions in the capital area and the territory's vaccine passport program took effect, allowing non-essential businesses like bars and restaurants to have more customers.

The previous day, health authorities expanded the list of people eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to include Yellowknife residents 50 and over, and all other territorial residents who are 40 and over.

Written by Amy Tucker, with files from Loren McGinnis