Nunavut to start vaccinating elders Wednesday; community clinics to begin next week

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IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut's chief public health officer says first doses of a vaccine against COVID-19 are to be given Wednesday to residents at Iqaluit's elders home.

Elders and front-line health staff are Nunavut's first priority for the Moderna vaccine, which arrived in the territory last week.

Dr. Michael Patterson told a news conference Tuesday that vaccines will be rolled out through focused inoculations and community clinics.

He said nurses will vaccinate elders in care homes, while the public will be able to walk in or make an appointment at community clinics.

Community clinics are to begin Monday and will open first in Arviat, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik and Cambridge Bay.

So far, Nunavut has received 6,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and expects a second shipment before the end of the month.

The Moderna vaccine requires each person to get two doses, 28 days apart. Patterson said the territory will vaccinate 3,000 people first and save the remainder for second doses.

"This will ensure that the necessary doses are available if the second shipment of vaccines expected later this month is delayed," he said.

Community-wide clinics in Nunavut will mostly be held in school gymnasiums and community halls.

Patterson said additional clinics will be based on the number of doses the territory receives from the federal government and the number of remaining doses from previous clinics.

He said about 75 per cent of Nunavut's population 18 years and older, around 19,000 people, are to be vaccinated by the end of March.

"I assure everyone that it is safe ... it cannot give you COVID-19 and the side-effects would be what you would expect from any other vaccine," Patterson said.

There are no active cases of COVID-19 in the territory where 265 people have recovered from the infection.

Despite no active infections, Patterson said restrictions closing non-essential businesses and limiting travel will remain in some communities with previous outbreaks for a few more weeks.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said five Nunavut residents have died from COVID-19. But because four of them caught COVID-19 in Southern Canada, they are not included in Nunavut's COVID-19 death count.

On Saturday, a 35-year-old Nunavut woman died from COVID-19 complications in a Winnipeg hospital a month after giving birth. She contracted the virus while in Winnipeg for medical travel.

Patterson said Nunavut is still working with other jurisdictions, such as Manitoba, to determine where the four deaths will be counted.

"It's not in any way shape or form intended as a comment that some deaths in Nunavut count more than others," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2021.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press