North

First doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Nunavut

The first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Nunavut Wednesday on a scheduled Canadian North flight, though it will be another week before the territory announces details on how they will be distributed.

Moderna vaccine delivered Wednesday, vaccinations to start in early January

Premier Joe Savikataaq, left, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson greet the first boxes of vaccines to arrive in Nunavut. There are 3,000 doses in Iqaluit Wednesday. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

The first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Nunavut Wednesday on a scheduled Canadian North flight, though it will be another week before the territory announces details on how they will be distributed. 

Nunavut officials confirmed that the territory received 6,000 doses in this first, two-part shipment to the territory, a number Premier Joe Savikataaq last week said he expected when the vaccine was approved for use by Health Canada. Half of the doses were sent to Iqaluit and half were sent to Rankin Inlet, where they are scheduled to arrive shortly. 

Today, Savikataaq said the vaccine arrival marks an important step in fighting COVID-19. 

"We still have to social distance and all the public health measures we have to do, but today is a very good day and I'm so glad the vaccine is here now for Nunavummiut," he said. 

Patterson says he expects to see a new shipment of doses every three weeks. Of the 6,000 doses sent to Nunavut Wednesday, half were sent to Rankin Inlet. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Yukon and Northwest Territories each received 7,200 doses on Monday and plan to begin vaccinating residents early in the new year.

The Nunavut government said it is planning a news conference for Jan. 5 to announce the details of its vaccine rollout plan.

"Three thousand doses have arrived here in Iqaluit, with another 3,000 on their way to Rankin [that] should be there sometime later today. This is an excellent beginning in getting back to a normal life for Nunavummiut," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said after the vaccines had arrived at the airport. 

"We've been told to expect shipments roughly every three weeks." he said. 

Last week, he said distribution wouldn't take place until the first weeks of January. He said elders and workers in long-term care will be vaccinated first.

Savikataaq said on Twitter that it could take "weeks or months" for the territory to vaccinate other adult residents. 

The federal government has promised enough doses of the Moderna vaccine — which is being prioritized for remote locations — to inoculate up to 75 per cent of the territory's adult population in the first three months of 2021. 

The Moderna vaccine can be shipped and stored at regular freezer temperatures, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be kept at –70 C to remain stable. Nunavut doesn't have the infrastructure needed to store and deliver the Pfizer vaccine to its 25 fly-in communities.  

There are three active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut as of Wednesday. That's down from eight cases on Monday, when a new case was announced in Whale Cove.

There are currently two active cases in Whale Cove and one active case in Arviat. Travel in and out of those communities is currently restricted.  

No new cases were reported Wednesday, Savikataaq said on social media.

According to the Government of Nunavut, there have been 266 cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut in total and one death since the first case was announced in Sanikiluaq in early November.

A Canadian North flight carrying Nunavut's first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine lands on the tarmac in Iqaluit on Wednesday. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

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