The N.W.T. is looking at a modified isolation "that's not so onerous" for children six months to four years old, who can't get vaccinated yet, say top docs.
Dr. Kami Kandola, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer, and Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, the territory's medical director, took questions on The Trailbreaker Thursday morning.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children aged five to 11 are expected to arrive in the territory by the end of the week, the minister of health said Tuesday evening.
Right now, children under five who travel out of territory cannot attend daycares, day homes or other places where there are unvaccinated children during the self-isolation period that follows.
"We are looking at a modified isolation that's not so onerous for that population, but we do want to protect unvaccinated children … from being exposed to COVID-19," Kandola said.
Missed the call-in show? Watch it here:
COVID-19 cases in the territory have been dropping since the latest outbreak in the Beaufort Delta region earlier this month. As of Wednesday, there are 46 cases in the N.W.T., with the majority, 36, in Tuktoyaktuk.
The number of cases dropped by more than half since last Friday, when health officials reported 104 cases across the territory.
Here are some of the top questions from this morning's call-in show.
Where will vaccines be administered for children 5 to 11 years old?
In a previous announcement, Julie Green told the N.W.T. Legislature's standing committee on accountability and oversight that a schedule to distribute and administer the vaccine to children across the territory has already been set but won't be made public until the doses arrive in the territory.
Pegg said communities are being invited to prepare the plan that works best for them. For some, she said, that may mean having it administered in schools, while others may choose to do it at health centres or both.
"Some parents feel more comfortable having their child vaccinated while they're there and not at school and some kids may feel more comfortable being vaccinated with their parents there," she said.
Yellowknife will use the same online booking system that's been used for adults and teens.
The government has scheduled a technical briefing with media Thursday afternoon to give a further update on vaccines for children.
How will having five to 11 year olds vaccinated affect the N.W.T.'s emerging wisely plan?
Kandola said it's a "significant step" in achieving a stronger population.
"If you look at large unvaccinated populations that are in a congregate setting, elementary school students are that last large unvaccinated population," Kandola said.
"So achieving good vaccine coverage for that population really does provide overall protection for N.W.T. in terms of limiting transmission."
"If we are going to look at future changes to the travel restrictions under the emerging wisely plan that's also going to be dependent on how that impacts the COVID-19 situation in Northwest Territories and across the country."
Kandola said she will "continue to review and consider incremental easing of travel restrictions."
When will kids under five get the vaccine?
Kandola said Pfizer, the same company that submitted their approval for five- to 11-year-olds to Health Canada and was recently approved, have yet to submit their clinical trial data for two-to-four-year-olds, which is the next phase.
"It's anticipated that once they submit that, Health Canada would review … and provide their approval," she said. "This is unlikely to happen this year. We'll be in 2022."
After that the next clinical trial is for the six-months to two-year-olds, which will be later on in 2022.
Why are schools and other public places not upgrading their air quality systems?
"This is a really good point," Kandola said. "What we do know for the COVID virus is that … it's easily transmitted in indoor settings [that] are poorly ventilated, especially if it's crowded."
She said the territory has looked at the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems in schools, and those aren't going to be replaced going into the winter season.
"Quick and easy ways to quickly improve airflow and ventilation is opening doors … briefly just to have good airflow come through, and decreasing crowding in indoor settings."
As well, she said it's important people are wearing masks and are getting vaccinated.
How is the third dose or booster dose campaign going?
Pegg said there continues to be interest in booster shots or third doses and that campaign is ongoing.
She said the territory is still giving "quite a few" first and second doses as well.
"So that's great to see," she said adding she can't give numbers exactly on how many people have received a third dose or a booster dose because the numbers of those doses are lumped in with the other doses given.
"It's a bit difficult to say how many residents have actually received a third dose," Pegg said. "But we do know that the interest in that was high."
When will dentists return to communities?
Pegg said dental services have resumed in some communities.
In others, it could be a question of capacity. As well, if it's a dentist coming from inside the territory there, the isolation requirements would be different than if the dentist was coming from outside the territory.
Pegg added that there are facility standards for dental services for safe equipment and for safe operation and that assessments of standards in communities are ongoing.
Is there an update on the N.W.T.-B.C. border?
Highway 7 will be opening to two-way traffic on certain days starting this week, Kandola said.
Fort Liard, N.W.T., the community nearby, has received and acknowledged a letter about this change, she said.