Haines Junction hits 81% vaccination rate, highest in Yukon

·3 min read
Haines Junction hits 81% vaccination rate, highest in Yukon
One of Yukon's mobile COVID-19 vaccination teams received a warm welcome from local residents in Haines Junction in February. As of May 1, the community had the highest rate of vaccine uptake in the territory. (Michael Schmidt - image credit)
One of Yukon's mobile COVID-19 vaccination teams received a warm welcome from local residents in Haines Junction in February. As of May 1, the community had the highest rate of vaccine uptake in the territory. (Michael Schmidt - image credit)

Haines Junction, Yukon, already boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the territory — now it can also boast its impressive COVID-19 vaccination rate.

As of May 1, 88 per cent of all eligible people in the community had received at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine, and 81 per cent had received both doses.

That's the highest rate of vaccination among all Yukon communities, according to numbers released Wednesday by the territorial government.

The next-highest rate of vaccination is in the communities of Mayo, Keno and Stewart Crossing, which collectively had about 71 per cent of their eligible residents fully vaccinated as of May 1.

Ross River had the lowest rate, at 28 per cent.

Steve Smith, chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, said the numbers for his community are "heartening to see." The First Nations' traditional territory is in the Haines Junction area, and residents are counted there.

WATCH: Mobile vaccination clinic rolls into Haines Junction in February:

Smith said the First Nation, along with the Village of Haines Junction, worked hard to encourage people to get vaccinated, and to help make it possible for them.

"That meant if they needed a ride, if they needed support getting to the clinic, we made sure that we did that. And we got the message out early and frequently," he said.

Smith described the First Nation's efforts "almost like an election campaign."

He said that involved making sure that people had access to good information about the vaccine, to counter any misinformation.

He also said it was important to lead by example, so the First Nation would share photos and video on social media of councillors getting the shot.

"Our council is completely, 100 per cent vaccinated themselves," Smith said.

"It was important for our people to see that council was behind this, and we ourselves were getting vaccinated."

He's especially proud of the vaccination rate among younger people in Haines Junction, which is also the highest in the territory as of May 1.

Seventy-three per cent of residents in that community aged 18 to 29 had received at least their first dose by May 1, compared to 62 per cent of that age group in Whitehorse, and 18 per cent in Ross River (the lowest rate in the territory). Among all Yukoners aged 18 to 29, the vaccination rate was at 60 per cent.

"Our young people really … stepped up," Smith said.

The highest vaccination rate — high enough to be baffling — for any age group in any community is for people in Old Crow aged 70 and up. According to the government's numbers, 110 per cent had received their first dose and 105 per cent were fully vaccinated by May 1.

A health department spokesperson said the numbers are based on the last population survey, and since then more people have entered their 70s.

'Pitting one community against another'

The decision to release community vaccination numbers comes just months after the premier dismissed the idea as potentially divisive.

"I don't think pitting one community against another community, as to one got 60 per cent and the other got 55, and then having everybody speculating or pointing fingers — I don't think that's necessarily going to help the safety of Yukoners," Premier Sandy Silver said at a March 3 news conference.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said in March that releasing vaccination data for each community would be potentially divisive.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said in March that releasing vaccination data for each community would be potentially divisive.(Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

He said at the time that health officials would provide information to municipal or First Nation leaders about their local vaccination rates, and let them decide what to do with those numbers.

But speaking on Wednesday, Health Minister Tracey-Ann McPhee suggested it was just a question of compiling accurate data before releasing anything.

Haines Junction and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations issued a news release touting their figures earlier this week, ahead of the government's release of all community data.

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