N.W.T.'s next shipment of COVID-19 vaccines will also be smaller, officials say

The Northwest Territories received confirmation from the federal government that it will receive fewer Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses than it expected in its next shipment later this month.

Territorial health officials provided update on Moderna vaccine shortfall on Tuesday morning

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane, right, and Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green delivered a COVID-19 update on Tuesday morning. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

A reduction in the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses the Northwest Territories will receive in February is forcing the territory to change its vaccine roll-out "in the short-term," said government officials at their bi-weekly COVID-19 update.

The N.W.T. government had anticipated receiving 7,200 doses of the vaccines during the first week of February and the same amount during the third week of February. 

It received only 4,200 doses this week and obtained confirmation from federal officials that it will also receive fewer doses during the next shipment this month, although it doesn't know by how many.

"We're still waiting for exact details on that from the federal government," said Health Minister Julie Green.

She said the reduced number of doses will not affect the territory's vaccine roll-out this week.

Green added that the territorial government has a plan in place to "fully utilize" its vaccine supply over the next few weeks.

"We're waiting for the arrival of the third shipment (during the third week of February) and an update about the fourth shipment of vaccines before we adjust our plan going forward," said Green.

The shortfall 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.

Despite that, Premier Caroline Cochrane said the long-term outlook 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.

Miss Tuesday's news conference? Watch it here:

2nd doses being administered

Green said 12,241 first doses have been administered to residents across all 33 communities in the N.W.T.

She added the territory started administering second doses to residents and staff in long-term care homes last week.

So far, she said, 125 second doses have been given to residents and staff at the AVENS Manor and the Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home in Behchokǫ̀.

"Long-term care facilities in Fort SImpson, Fort Smith, Inuvik, Hay River and Norman Wells are next in line for second doses along with the extended care unit at the Stanton Territorial Hospital," said Green.

5 active cases

There are five active COVID-19 cases in the Northwest Territories. All are self-isolating and doing well.

Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory's chief public health officer, said three of the cases are at the Gahcho Kué winter road camp, and one is at the Gahcho Kué mine.

Kandola indicated that none of the cases currently pose a risk of transmission is communities.

On Monday night, a new case was reported in Fort Liard.

Kandola said the case is not related to the previous cluster in that community.

"It is a work-related exposure linked to out-of-territory travel," she said.

She said the case does not represent a high risk of transmission to the community although she added public health will continue to monitor it.

No COVID-19 variants detected in N.W.T.

Kandola said the COVID-19 variants that originated in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil have not shown up in the N.W.T.

"We have the tools to aggressively contact trace and isolate potential exposures from gaining traction in our territory," she said.

She said public health is keenly following research on how the Moderna vaccine interacts with the new variants.

"We are ready to pivot if it becomes necessary to keep our residents safe," she said.

She added the territory's wastewater surveillance program, which operates in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith and Inuvik, has not revealed the presence of COVID-19 in those communities.


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