North

Pfizer vaccine to be offered to N.W.T. youth 12-17 years old starting Thursday

Yellowknife youth aged 12 to 17 will be able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting Thursday. It comes as health officials try to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that started at an elementary school in the capital.

Yellowknife youth in the age range will be given the shot first

Covid Immunization Response Team (CIRT) movement control coordinator Patrick Jacobson deplaning in Yellowknife with 1,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. (Government of the Northwest Territories)

Yellowknife youth aged 12 to 17 will be able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting Thursday.

The territorial government made the announcement Wednesday afternoon in a news release.

It says Yellowknife youth will get the shot first due to a recent cluster of COVID-19 cases in the city associated with a case first detected at the N.J. Macpherson elementary school over the weekend. Youth in that age range from other Northwest Territories communities who happen to be in Yellowknife those days can also get the shot.

There will also be doses held back for youth aged 12-17 in Behchokǫ̀, which will be offered in that community next week.

Appointments can be made on a first-served basis on the NTHSSA website. Anyone 18 years old and over in all N.W.T. communities can still access the Moderna vaccine by contacting the local public health unit or health centre.

There will be more doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the coming weeks, the territory says, which will be given to youth aged 12-17 in all other N.W.T. communities. People can check out details for the upcoming clinics on the government's website and social media pages once finalized. 

"On behalf of all residents of the N.W.T., I would like to thank our vaccine team for facilitating this important expansion of our vaccine program," said Minister of Health and Social Services Julie Green in a statement. "This approach will give increased protection to youth, schools and communities at a time when we need it most."

Damien Healy, a spokesperson with the territory, says Health and Social Services isn't making any COVID-19 vaccines mandatory. Rather, vaccines are "strongly encouraged." 

Those in isolation who want to access the vaccine need to email cpho@gov.nt.ca for approval, as well, said David Maguire also a spokesperson. There are also plans for a clinic for mid next week in Yellowknife for those currently in isolation — details will be announced and made available once the demand is known, he said. 

"Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways we can protect ourselves, our families, and our communities against COVID-19," said Maguire, adding that the Health Canada approval process for the vaccine is rigorous. 

Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to vaccinate children 12 and up on Wednesday The previous age cutoff for the vaccine was 16. The Pfizer vaccine is the first product to be authorized for use in this younger age category and is the only other vaccine aside from the Moderna vaccine to be administered in the North.

Until now in the N.W.T., the vaccine distribution was solely based on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved for those 18 years of age and older.

The N.W.T. received 1,170 doses Tuesday in exchange for Moderna doses after negotiating a trade with B.C. 

"After successful negotiations with the National Operation Centre (NOC) and provinces, the GNWT is exchanging future shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for Pfizer-BioNTech to protect as many residents as possible from the virus," the news release says.

The territory also says those who have questions about whether they are a close contact to the cases tied to the N.J. Macpherson School cluster can check their website for more information or check here for the latest public exposure notices.

Written by Amy Tucker

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