1st doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrive in N.W.T., earmarked for 16- and 17-year olds

First doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available for 16 and 17 year-olds in the N.W.T., starting tomorrow.

Appointments will be available for booking online Wednesday morning

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine. Over one thousand doses arrived in the N.W.T. on Tuesday. (Cagla Gurdogan/Reuters)

First doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be available for 16- and 17-year-olds in the N.W.T., starting Thursday.

Scott Robertson, COVID-19 operations lead for the NWT Health and Social Services Authority, said the vaccines arrived on Tuesday.

Speaking on CBC's The Trailbreaker Wednesday morning, Robertson said staff are finishing up their training over the next couple of days.

"We will start offering appointments which will be available for online booking for people who are 16 and 17 years old," he said.

Those appointments will be available for online booking later this morning, he said, with availability for Thursday and Saturday afternoon in Yellowknife.

Pfizer's vaccine, which had been approved for individuals 16 years and older, was previously not available in the N.W.T., as it requires storage at extremely cold temperatures not possible in conventional freezers.

Shortly after Robertson spoke to CBC Wednesday, Health Canada announced the vaccine would be approved for use in children as young as 12. Officials were not immediately available to comment on how the expanded eligibility would affect their plans.

Over one thousand doses arrive from B.C.

It will only be available for that age group at this time, he said, in order to preserve the limited number of vaccines.

He said the territory received 1,170 doses Tuesday in exchange for Moderna doses after negotiating a trade with B.C.

"It was really generous of them to help us out to allow us to expand to this younger age group, given the situation in Yellowknife. We're very grateful for their help with that."

The touchless transfer was done at the Vancouver airport, he said.

Dr. Anne Marie Pegg, the territory's medical director, told CBC that as of Tuesday there were 20 active cases and seven probable cases in Yellowknife.

She said while the vaccine will be distributed in Yellowknife first, due to both the ongoing outbreak and the size of its vulnerable population in the age group, it will eventually make it to other communities as well.

"By offering the vaccine to 16 and 17-year-olds, we're able to decrease that pool of vulnerable people even further, so there are less people in our community who are going to be at risk to develop COVID[-19]," she said.

Pegg said that everyone should be monitoring themselves for symptoms, and keep their circles small to limit exposure.