Fewer younger people getting vaccinated, says Yukon's top doctor

·3 min read
Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, speaks during a press conference in Whitehorse, Yukon on June 30, 2020. (Alistair Maitland/Government of Yukon - image credit)
Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, speaks during a press conference in Whitehorse, Yukon on June 30, 2020. (Alistair Maitland/Government of Yukon - image credit)

Yukon's chief medical officer says older Yukoners have so far been more likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and that may affect the time it takes for the territory to reach herd immunity.

Dr. Brendan Hanley said Wednesday that detailed numbers about vaccinations by age group will be released "as they're confirmed," but he did say there has been a noticeable trend.

"As we drop from the 70-plus age category, the per cent vaccinated drops with every decade," he said.

"What we are seeing are trends where we have higher vaccine uptake with older age groups, and I think that's not an uncommon phenomenon, looking at other areas. We tend to have, I think, a little more hesitancy among the younger groups."

Hanley said older Yukoners have had more opportunity to book appointments for vaccinations, as clinics for seniors opened weeks before those for the general population. He also said older people might be more motivated to get vaccinated because they're typically at greater risk.

He said there are also many reasons why some younger people may not have gone for a shot.

"Younger people are busy, they're working, they have families, they have many other things to do, so I know that definitely factors into vaccine uptake. They also may be just waiting, looking for more information, holding back for numerous reasons," Hanley said.

It's a concern for officials because it may alter the point at which Yukon is deemed to reach herd immunity, with little risk of transmission.

"If we have a pool of susceptible younger people who are working age, who have parents and families, there may be risk for transmission even while we have a high overall rate of vaccination," Hanley said.

Miss Wednesday's news conference? Watch it here:

The territory's vaccination clinics are continuing, with 33,443 doses of the Moderna vaccine having been administered as of Tuesday afternoon — 22,795 people had received at least a first shot, and 10,648 had received a second shot.

In the past, Yukon officials said herd immunity would likely be achieved once 75 per cent of the territory's adult population was fully vaccinated. Hanley said Wednesday that it's harder to say what the goal should be now.

"We don't have a definitive figure and we may never have a definitive figure of what that number really is."

He said the risk of COVID-19 variants getting into Yukon is still a big concern, and it factors into any discussions about easing public health measures.

"For now, we still advise that whether vaccinated or not, travel should be for essential reasons until we understand where the variants will take us over the next few weeks," Hanley said.

"Travel for Canadians will get better soon, but we as Canadians need to get past this third wave and need collectively to get to a highly-vaccinated state."

Return to class for high school students

Hanley also demurred when asked whether a date has been set for Whitehorse high school students to return to full days of in-class learning. Right now, some are studying partly at home.

"I intend to have more to bring to you next week, on more specifics around that," he said.

"The work is ongoing, between the department and between councils and the Yukon Teachers' Association — those conversations are taking place."

There has not been a new case of COVID-19 announced in the territory in more than a month. To date, Yukon has seen 72 cases with 71 people recovered. One person has died.