Missed COVID-19 vaccine appointments are wasting doses, says Yukon's top doctor

·4 min read
Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, said during a news  conference in Whitehorse on Wednesday that residents who can't make their vaccination appointments should let clinic staff know in advance. (Alistair Maitland/Government of Yukon - image credit)
Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, said during a news conference in Whitehorse on Wednesday that residents who can't make their vaccination appointments should let clinic staff know in advance. (Alistair Maitland/Government of Yukon - image credit)

Yukon's chief medical officer says some of the territory's doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are being wasted because people are missing appointments for their shot.

"At a time when there's widespread need for vaccine across Canada and indeed around the world, we need to be so careful with each dose we use here in Yukon," said Dr. Brendan Hanley at his weekly COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

"I know that there were several doses wasted on one occasion, I believe it was most of one vial — one vial containing ten doses."

Hanley said vaccine clinic workers are very careful to thaw just enough doses each day, based on booked appointments. So when people book appointments but then don't show up, that can mean doses are thrown out.

"This isn't quite the same as missing a rendezvous with a friend," he said

Hanley said it's OK if people can't make their appointments, but people should be sure to cancel or rebook ahead of time so clinic staff know not to expect them.

He said officials are tracking the overall number of wasted doses, but he did not have that figure handy on Wednesday morning. Still, he said, the wastage is "very low" in Yukon.

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

As of Monday 25,731 Yukoners, or about 72 per cent of the eligible population, had received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine while 22,032, or about 63 per cent of the eligible population, had received both doses.

Hanley called the vaccination rate a "fantastic accomplishment," but said it's still difficult to say when the territory might reach so-called herd immunity.

"Seventy-five per cent uptake amongst our eligible population was our first goal, and we are close but we are not there," he said.

"There is no one number that we know of for herd immunity. It depends on too many things … for the time being, the answer is, the more the better."

Officials also announced that starting this weekend, the Whitehorse vaccination clinic will begin operating at reduced hours. As of May 1, it will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Hanley also said on Wendesday that the last round of mobile vaccination clinics in rural communities are done. He said doses of the Moderna vaccine would now be available at community health centres.

Talks of eased isolation requirements

Premier Sandy Silver, sitting alongside Hanley at Wednesday's news conference for the first time since before the recent election campaign, said he's been talking with Hanley in recent days about easing certain restrictions.

"While we're not in a position today to announce just what measures will be changing, we are looking at how we can ease self-isolation requirements in the near future," Silver said.

Hanley urged Yukoners to be patient.

"The COVID measures in place work well. Each of us needs to keep that in mind and keep going for now," he said.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley provided an update on COVID-19 in the territory on Wednesday morning.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley provided an update on COVID-19 in the territory on Wednesday morning.(Government of Yukon)

No active cases

As of Tuesday afternoon, the territory had no active cases of COVID-19. The two most recent active cases have now recovered.

So far the territory has reported 81 cases of COVID-19.

The 81st case was announced on Monday, as being a Yukoner who contracted COVID-19 outside of the territory and then died from "unrelated health conditions."

Officials have counted that case as the territory's second death related to COVID-19, because the person had tested positive for the infection before they died.

The territory's other COVID-related death was announced in October and involved an "older" person in Watson Lake with "significant underlying medical conditions," according to officials.

Hanley also said on Wednesday that two cases announced in Whitehorse last week have since recovered. Officials initially said the source of infection for those cases was unknown, but Hanley said on Wednesday that they have since been connected to an earlier case in the territory, and there was no concern about community transmission.