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Yukon could achieve COVID-19 herd immunity within 3 months, says top doctor

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said vaccine uptake in Yukon has been great so far, and that he has heard of very few people holding back or hesitating to get their shot.

Mobile vaccine teams set to travel to communities next week

Dr. Brendan Hanley said during Wednesday's weekly COVID-19 update that uptake of the vaccine has been great so far and that he has heard of very few people holding back or hesitating. (Mark Kelly Photography/Government of Yukon)

Yukon's chief medical officer of health says herd immunity is on the horizon in the territory.

"Within just three months from now, we could see our population approach herd immunity, a chance that very few places in Canada have," Dr. Brendan Hanley said during Wednesday's weekly COVID-19 update. 

Hanley said vaccine uptake in Yukon has been great so far, and that he has heard of very few people holding back or hesitating to get their shot.

"Any progress toward renormalizing our society will depend on a maximal uptake of the vaccine," Hanley said.

"Achieving herd immunity is a critical part of that success. We are working hard ... on how we can plan for easing public health measures once we have a vaccinated population."

The aim is for 75 per cent of the eligible adult population to be vaccinated by the beginning of April, Hanley said.

"As long as our vaccine supplies come in as scheduled, we're set up for a campaign that will be remarkable for pace towards that 75 per cent or higher goal," said Hanley.

Premier Sandy Silver said the next shipment of 7,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is set to arrive in Yukon this week. According to the territorial government's website, the doses are set to arrive Thursday.

"This new shipment will help to keep us moving forward with our immunization plans," said Silver.

By end of day Tuesday, Silver said that 685 people in the territory had received their first dose of the vaccine.

The federal government's website forecasts that Yukon will be receiving two other shipments of 7,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine after this week's delivery. One is set to arrive the week of Feb. 1-7 and the other is set to arrive the week of Feb. 22-28.

Missed Wednesday's news conference? Watch it here:

Vaccine going to communities next week

Last Thursday, officials announced the territory's vaccine rollout plan — just days after the first Yukoners were vaccinated in Whitehorse.

Beginning next week, two mobile teams are scheduled to travel into rural Yukon communities to immunize all willing adults.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to residents of Watson Lake, Upper Liard, Lower Post, Beaver Creek and Old Crow.

While those teams are travelling out to communities, a mass clinic will open up at the Whitehorse Convention Centre next week, with priority given to high-risk and vulnerable populations.

The government's website says this includes high-risk health care workers who may care for or be in contact with COVID-19 patients, older adults (starting with 70 years and older), and people who are marginalized and living in group settings such as the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter and Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

The Yukon government has launched a COVID-19 vaccine booking website with information on common questions and concerns about vaccination. (Yukon government)

How to book your vaccine

This week, the Yukon government launched a website where people in the territory can book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments. 

The site, splashed with the slogan "This is our shot," includes details of when and where Yukoners across the territory can get their shots.

It also includes details on the vaccine's safety, and why people in Yukon should trust that it is effective.

"Widespread immunization is the best way to protect Yukoners. Safe and effective vaccines will reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Over time, this will allow Yukoners to live with fewer restrictions," the website states.

Beginning Thursday, the territorial government says that appointments can also be booked by calling 1-877-374-0425.

During the update, Hanley mentioned a recently launched national Statistics Canada survey meant "to determine how much COVID-19 infection is out there, apart from what we already know."

As part of the survey, Statistics Canada has mailed packages to 48,000 Canadians at random, including 1,000 people living in Yukon. The packages include blood sample collection kits, which Canadians are being asked to use so the National Microbiology Lab can test the samples for coronavirus antibodies.

"The test will determine whether, in the past, you may have unknowingly contracted COVID-19," said Hanley. "This test will be used for research purposes and, of course, it's completely optional."

On Friday, the territorial government confirmed a new case of COVID-19 in the territory, marking the 70th case reported in Yukon since the start of the pandemic. 

Six cases are currently active, 63 have recovered and there has been one death.

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