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Moderna shortage sees Yukon getting fewer vaccine doses than expected

Second doses will go ahead, but the shortage is expected to impact mass vaccine clinic
The first vial of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be used in the Yukon held by Clarissa Wall, Health and Social Services communications and social marketing analyst, in Whitehorse on Feb. 1. It is possible that the Yukon will receive a smaller shipment of the vaccine than originally expected after the federal government announced Moderna is cutting back on vaccine delivery numbers next week. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The Yukon government says it will continue with second doses, but vaccine shortages may “impact” the Whitehorse vaccination clinic for the general public after the federal government announced Moderna is cutting back on vaccine delivery numbers next week. The Yukon government has not clarified in what way the delivery numbers are expected to affect the rollout.

Canada was supposed to get more than 230,000 doses from Moderna next week, but will instead get slightly fewer than 180,000.

“Yukon is one of many jurisdictions in Canada and around the world that will see reduced shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks,” reads a statement from Health Minister Pauline Frost and Premier Sandy Silver released on Feb. 2.

“Despite the reduced vaccine availability, mobile clinics scheduled for rural communities this week will continue, as will the clinic for those age 60 and older in Whitehorse.”

The federal government had previously announced that the Yukon would receive doses of the vaccine in shipments of 7,200. Those shipments were planned for the week of Jan. 11 to 17, Feb. 1 to 7 and Feb. 22 to 28.

The federal government’s current vaccine distribution schedule shows that the Yukon is set to receive only 4,500 doses this week instead of the original 7,200 doses. The next scheduled shipment is no longer on the website, but the statement from the Yukon government says the late February shipment is also expected to be 4,500 doses.

The Northwest Territories will receive 4,700 doses instead of 7,200, and Nunavut is set to receive 3,400 doses instead of 6,000. The provinces, who are receiving both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, are also seeing their shipments cut back.

The Yukon plans to start distributing its second dose of the Moderna vaccine to long-term care residents this week. Second dose clinics will run in February and March for those who have already received the first dose.

“We remain committed to a safe and effective roll-out of the vaccine delivery to all Yukon citizens. All those who have received a first dose by February 6, will receive their second dose of vaccine to ensure their full protection. We want to assure rural residents that their second doses are protected, and we will be returning to each community throughout February and the first two weeks of March,” reads the government statement.

The public vaccine clinic, which would offer the vaccine to all Whitehorse residents over the age of 18, was originally set to open on Feb 10.

According to the statement from Frost and Silver, that timeline will be impacted in order to guarantee second doses to the priority groups, including seniors and communities outside of Whitehorse. More details on the public clinic are expected later in the week.

“Yukon’s vaccine rollout schedule was designed to be flexible based on vaccine availability,” reads the statement, echoing early statements from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley.

“The supply of vaccines remains the responsibility of the federal government and we continue to receive assurances that Yukon will receive its full allotment of doses before March 31, 2021,” it reads.

Based on current information, the government says all Yukon citizens who would like to be immunized will be able to receive the vaccine by the end of April 2021.

Moderna’s Canadian manager said in a written statement that the delay is related to producing the “drug substance” component of the Moderna vaccine, which is being done by Swiss drug manufacturer Lonza in Visp, Switzerland.

The shortage adds additional pressure on the federal government after Pfizer announced a similar production slowdown that will impact vaccines making their way to Canada.

Patricia Gauthier said the delays are short term for non-U.S. clients, and the company is still able to ship its promised doses in the first three months of the year. For Canada, that is two million doses. Canada has received 340,200 doses from Moderna so far.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said as companies build the manufacturing of these vaccines from scratch delays in the early days are not unexpected.

Similar cuts are being made to Europe’s deliveries, with Italy, France and Switzerland all reporting they, too, are getting less than 80 per cent of their expected doses.

With files from The Canadian Press

Contact Haley Ritchie at