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Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”
Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations.

The mobile vaccine teams will head to three communities this week — Watson Lake on Jan. 18, Beaver Creek on Jan. 21 and Old Crow on Jan. 22.

The Watson Lake clinic also includes Good Hope Lake, Liard River and Lower Post.

“The booking system is critically important to make sure we have a good, efficient flow of people. We don’t want to have people wait a long time because of the weather, and at the same time, capitalizing on the number of hours for the kind of operations and moving people through,” said John Coyne, manager of the emergency management unit.

Coyne said an advance team of around three to five people will travel ahead to most communities in order to get facilities set up across the territory. Small clinical teams made up of healthcare professionals are supported by logistical teams, which were composed of individuals from various government departments including finance, health and social and wildland fire.

“It’s an all-of-government approach,” he said. “We’ve addressed trying to cater to people’s unique needs, not just through communications and engagement, but through inclusive and partnering with the community to make sure this is done efficiently.”

Preparation key

The two mobile teams – Balto and Togo – prepared at Vanier Catholic Secondary School on Jan. 15, running through everything from unloading supplies to deciding on best placements for tape markers that will guide people through the vaccination process.

“We use this day as an opportunity to set it up, see how it flows, make some minor adjustments or tweaks and take it down again, to do it safely and efficiently,” Coyne said.

The teams spent a week in training to make sure operations flow smoothly on the ground. Coyne said a school gymnasium was a good scenario to practise, since many of the vaccination clinics will take place inside schools.

The government worked with community liaisons to identify the best sites to allow for people to flow through and remain physically distant. Community members are able to book time slots online.

“The last week of the training that we’ve done, it’s been extensive, and it’s been very rewarding. We didn’t really know a lot of each other. We all come from different divisions and departments,” said Robert Morris, a paramedic supervisor for Yukon emergency medical services who was joining the training day.

Morris will join Team Balto in order to support vaccinated people in the makeshift “waiting room” where they must remain for around 15 minutes in order to make sure they don’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Generally speaking, allergies are rare, but medical personnel on-site are trained to handle reactions.

“I really do hope that when we look back on this, we can say that this historic moment was not only a success to everybody who was a part of it, but also to the communities that were reaching out to as well,” he said.

Immunizations continue in Whitehorse

While mobile teams are busy in the communities, immunizations will continue in Whitehorse for high-risk health care workers, older adults over 70 and people living in group settings like the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter and Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

Whitehorse includes residents of Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne with respect to vaccinations.

As with the vaccination efforts in the communities, Whitehorse residents who are over 70 can register for COVID-19 vaccinations online by going to Vaccinations will take place at the Yukon Convention Centre.

Active cases of COVID-19 cases in the territory are now down to zero.

The second shipment of 7,200 Moderna vaccines arrived in the territory on Jan. 14. As of Jan. 19 the total number of vaccine doses administered was 1,347, according to the government website.

Next week the mobile teams will head to Teslin, Carcross and Tagish, Dawson City and Pelly Crossing. The remaining communities will be visited in the first week of February.

Contact Haley Ritchie at