N.W.T. vaccine eligibility expanded for priority groups

The territory's medical director answers your questions about the latest round of vaccinations and who is eligible.

Medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg shares what you need to know

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, territorial medical director, receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Stanton Territorial Hospital on Jan. 10. (Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority)

The N.W.T. has expanded eligibility rules for first doses of the Moderna vaccine and has opened second dose appointments in Yellowknife for people who were vaccinated between Jan. 7 and Jan. 22. 

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, the territory's medical director, said residents' eagerness to get vaccinated "bodes really well for the overall protection of our territory. It's exciting to see that people are excited about getting vaccinated," she said. 

The N.W.T.'s updated list for vaccine eligibility includes people with one or more of the following chronic medical conditions, including mild or controlled disease: 

  • lung disease 
  • heart disease 
  • hypertension (high blood pressure) 
  • diabetes 
  • kidney disease 
  • liver disease 
  • dementia 
  • stroke 

The vaccine is available to populations at risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19, and those who are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19, such as cab drivers. 

Residents who are at a higher risk of exposure, including mine or camp workers who are in close contact with southern workers, medevac crews and isolation centre staff may also get their first dose.

The priority group now includes residents who have to go for non-elective medical travel before March 31.

The vaccine is also available to people who are elderly, people who have a body mass index over 40, and people with chronic conditions that weaken the immune system. 

Residents with intellectual disabilities and the caregivers of people at risk for severe disease can also make an appointment for their first dose. 

Second dose schedule released

Second doses are available in Yellowknife for those who received a first dose between Jan. 7 and 17, and from Jan. 18 to 22. 

"The vaccine is the best protection against getting COVID-19 and it's shown to be particularly effective against getting severe COVID-19," Pegg said.

Pegg said researchers are still learning about the long-term complications of contracting even mild cases of COVID-19, and the vaccine is an added layer of protection.

Because certain groups, including children, cannot access the vaccine "the best way they can be protected is if there is a low level of circulating virus" in the community.

Teachers will be vaccinated ahead of general population

During a press conference Wednesday, officials said teachers will be included in priority groups.

"There is a plan by the CPHO (chief public health officer) to offer the vaccine to teachers in those bigger communities," said Pegg.

In many smaller communities, the vaccine was offered to everyone over the age of 18, so teachers there were more likely to have received the vaccine during community clinics, she said. If teachers in smaller centres have not already gotten the vaccine, they can take it during the next round of vaccinations in their community. 

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine clinics in your community, visit the territory's COVID-19 website or call 867-767-9120 to book an appointment. 

An updated list of vaccine schedules is available on the health authority's website

Written by Avery Zingel based on an interview by Lawrence Nayally


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