Pfizer vaccine doses will be reserved for youth, says Yukon's top doc

·3 min read
A Pfizer Bio-NTech vaccine dose is prepared by a nurse at a high school clinic in Yellowknife last week. Yukon is also set to administer Pfizer doses to youth starting next week, while adult Yukoners will continue to receive Moderna shots.  (John Van Dusen/CBC - image credit)
A Pfizer Bio-NTech vaccine dose is prepared by a nurse at a high school clinic in Yellowknife last week. Yukon is also set to administer Pfizer doses to youth starting next week, while adult Yukoners will continue to receive Moderna shots. (John Van Dusen/CBC - image credit)

Yukon is preparing to start administering shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine starting next week — but those shots won't be for just anyone.

Yukon's chief medical officer says adults in the territory will continue to receive the Moderna vaccine — the only one available to them so far — while the new Pfizer doses will be reserved for youth aged 12 to 17.

"We do have a limited supply [of Pfizer] that needs to be specifically allocated to the intended demographic," Dr. Brendan Hanley said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by Health Canada earlier this month, for use in anyone aged 12 and up. Yukon then lobbied Ottawa for some doses to be sent to the territory.

Clinics will begin next week in rural communities and in Whitehorse. Hanley said those will be solely for youth, while adults can still access the Moderna vaccine elsewhere.

Hanley also said that adults who have received a first dose of Pfizer elsewhere in Canada and now need their second jab in Yukon will also get the Moderna shot. The second shot does not need to be the same brand as the first, he said.

"I am completely confident that their immunity to COVID-19 is just as good as with two doses of either vaccine," he said.

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

Vaccine verification system 'can be worked out very shortly'

As of Tuesday, the territory had no active cases of COVID-19. There have been a total of 84 cases confirmed in Yukon since the start of the pandemic.

Also as of Tuesday, about 77 per cent of eligible adults had received their first shot of vaccine, and 69 per cent had received their second shot.

The territory has eased some more pandemic-related restrictions this week, including dropping the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Yukon for anybody who is fully vaccinated.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said Wednesday — a day after the new rules took effect — that the verification system is still a work in progress. Officials can easily verify vaccination status for Yukon and B.C. residents right now, he said, but it gets murkier for people coming from elsewhere.

In other words, it's not clear how officials might verify you're vaccinated if you arrive today from, say, Alberta.

"I think the details of this can be worked out very shortly," Silver said.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said officials are still figuring out how to verify whether people not from Yukon or B.C. arriving in the territory are fully vaccinated.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said officials are still figuring out how to verify whether people not from Yukon or B.C. arriving in the territory are fully vaccinated.(Government of Yukon)

Anybody who can't prove they've had their second shot at least 14 days prior to arrival must self-isolate for 14 days, as before.

Also this week, the government extended the territory's state of emergency for up to 90 more days.

Silver said at Wednesday's news conference that the state of emergency allows Yukon to enact public health measures.

"These measures have helped keep Yukon safe, over the past year-plus. And we need to keep them in place for now," he said.

Hanley also said the pandemic is not over — though he noted a change in the public mood lately.

"I feel and I welcome a new sense of calm in the territory. There is not the fear that was palpable before, when we announced new cases," he said.