Nunavut government says it can vaccinate 500 residents in a day

Nunavut's top doctor says that once the territory's vaccination program is fully underway, many people will be inoculated fast.

Another 6,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive next week

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer, spoke at a COVID-19 press conference Thursday. (CBC)

Nunavut's top doctor says that once the territory's vaccination program is fully underway, many people will be inoculated fast. 

"Once things get rolling, we've done the math, and we can administer at least 500 doses a day," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said during a news conference Thursday morning at the Legislative Assembly. 

He also remains confident that three quarters of the adult population will be vaccinated by the end of March. 

"We have enough vaccine in territory to vaccinate all of the clinics that we've announced," he said. 

Nunavut currently is working with a stock of 6,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The territory will only vaccinate 3,000 people until another shipment arrives.

There are 6,000 doses expected sometime next week, Patterson said. 

On Wednesday, 21 Iqaluit elders and staff at the city's elders residence received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine.  Another eight staff with public health were also vaccinated, Patterson said.

Health workers in long term care homes are being prioritized in this first round of vaccines. 

Community vaccinations start next week in Arviat, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik and Cambridge Bay. These communities all have long term care homes. During those clinics, health centre staff will be vaccinated along with all willing elders, including those not living in care homes. 

"We are focusing on getting as many people vaccinated with the doses we have," Patterson said. 

Once a vial of the Moderna vaccine is punctured, Patterson said it needs to be used within six hours. 

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As well, the Moderna vaccine is transported frozen. When a community clinic is over, any vials of the Moderna vaccine that are already thawed out will be left at community health centres for later use. Vials that are thawed out will not be refrozen and moved to other communities. 

If a residents can't make the clinic dates, there may be the option to get a vaccine dose later, Patterson said. 

Restrictions to stay in place

He said it will take time for vaccination clinics to make the whole territory safe.

Immunity thresholds in each community will be different, but at least 60 per cent of adults in the territory will need to be vaccinated for "herd immunity" to happen, he said.  

Isolation requirements won't change either, he said. What changes are necessary for the hubs to close, isn't decided yet, but the territory could move to at home isolation at some point, but couldn't say when.

Nunavut's young population could mean it will be harder to reach community-wide immunity, since only adults can be vaccinated he said. He added that the most vulnerable can still be protected.

Nunavut elders living in the South at Embassy West Senior Living will be vaccinated by the Ontario government. 

There have been no active cases reported in Nunavut this week. As of Sunday the territory's case count is zero. There are 265 residents recovered and one death reported. 

Premier Joe Savikataaq and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson greet the first boxes of vaccines to arrive in Nunavut last week. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Vaccine safe, Patterson says

Patterson said people who have had COVID-19 are still recommended to get the vaccine and he said  that it's safe for those who have had tuberculosis or cancer.

New residents who have lived in Nunavut for less than a year will also be be able to get the vaccine.

Patterson said he is waiting until it's his turn to be vaccinated. Premier Joe Savikataaq has said on multiple occasions that he will get the vaccine, though said on Thursday that he's also waiting. 

"It's just not my turn yet," he said. "I'm not at high risk"

Savikataaq asked residents to avoid "opinions" and "fear mongering" about the Moderna vaccine, and to use reliable sources to stay informed. 

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.  

Income assistance offices open for appointments

With the new year here and active cases down to zero, the Department of Family Services says the process for receiving income assistance payments is going back to normal in all communities except for Arviat and Whale Cove, where outbreaks are not yet considered over.

Appointments are required.

Those who need an appointment and do not have access to a phone should visit the Income Assistance Office, the department in a release Thursday. Due to COVID-19, only one person at a time will be allowed into the office.

For appointments, clients should bring pay stubs, identification and recent tax returns, so income assistance staff can access client accounts with the Canada Revenue Agency, the release said. 

"We also encourage everyone to contact CRA to determine your eligibility for the Canada Response Benefit (CRB). The CRB eligibility criteria are broad, and if you have received Income Assistance for over 12 months, you may qualify," the release said.

The government is asking Nunavummiut who think they've been exposed to COVID-19 to call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or notify their community health centre right away.