The first shipment of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 has arrived in the territory with vaccinations to begin next week.
In a Dec. 28 statement, Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost noted a total of 7,200 doses of the vaccine had arrived in Whitehorse.
“This is a turning point in Yukon’s fight against COVID-19 and is a positive way to end 2020,” she said.
“I can assure Yukoners that we are ready to start rolling out the vaccine very soon. A team of dedicated health professionals is undergoing training on how to safely store, handle and deliver the vaccine. This training will ensure that they can safely administer the vaccine to eligible Yukoners.”
Vaccines will begin being administered Jan. 4 and will be guided by the territory’s vaccine strategy with highest priority groups receiving the vaccine first. That will mean beginning with long-term care residents and staff.
“As in other jurisdictions across the country, these individuals are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We have our dedicated public health experts and continuing care staff to thank for keeping these Yukoners safe over the course of the pandemic,” Frost said.
Other priority groups will include others in group living situations such as group homes and shelters; those over the age of 80; and Yukoners living in rural and remote communities including First Nations.
Further shipments of the Moderna vaccine are anticipated to arrive in the territory in mid-January with the Yukon expected to receive enough doses to vaccinate 75 per cent of the adult population in the early part of 2021. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are also receiving the Moderna vaccine and will cover most adults who want to be vaccinated.
It’s expected the three territories will be the first Canadian jurisdictions to fully vaccinate their adult populations.
At a press conference earlier this month Yukon government officials said the territory is expected to receive 50,400 Modern vaccine doses. Those receiving the vaccine will get two doses 28 to 35 days apart. In its trials, the Moderna vaccine had a 94.5 per cent success rate.
When it was announced the territory would receive enough vaccine for up to 75 per cent of the adult population, Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said it was an opportunity for the territory to show how taking a population approach to COVID-19 immunization can work.
“Not only do we have a fantastic opportunity, we also have an obligation to do this right,” he said at the time. “This obligation includes us giving you all the information that you need in order to help you feel comfortable with receiving the vaccine. It is then up to you to step forward for the vaccine when it is offered. Our collective goal should be not to waste a single precious dose that can easily go to somewhere else in need.”
As the territory gets set to roll out the vaccine, mobile clinics will be deployed to long-term care homes, homebound individuals within the highest priority groups and to remote communities. Health centres in communities will also have some vaccines for those unable to attend clinics.
In Whitehorse for the broader population the vaccine will be provided through a similar method as the 2020 flu vaccine, with a mass clinic at the Yukon Convention Centre. It will first open to priority groups and then to the general adult population.
It’s expected that up to 1,000 people could be vaccinated per day.
As the territory moves closer to administering the first vaccines, Yukoners are being reminded to continue taking precautions against COVID-19 by distancing; hand-washing; staying home when sick; limiting gatherings; self-isolating when returning to the territory after travel, if you’ve been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or if awaiting COVID-19 test results; and wearing a mask in indoor spaces.
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