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Premier disagrees with feds on modified vaccine delivery math

The territory is receiving less of the Moderna vaccine in February than expected
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media at at press conference on Jan. 27 about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Hanley said the rationale from the federal government on their new vaccine shipment numbers is based on their calculations of risk and vaccination rollout, but both Hanley and Silver said they disagreed with the decision. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Premier Sandy Silver said Feb. 4 that he “doesn’t agree with the math” that will see the Yukon get a smaller share of limited Moderna supplies than promised by the federal government.

“I don’t agree with the math and the conversations are continuing on that front. And they’re not the same throughout the North either. So we’re continuing to have those conversations,” Silver said.

An international shortage of the vaccine means that earlier this week the territories were told they would get two reduced shipments in February.

The Yukon was ready to receive 7,200 doses on the weeks of Feb. 1 and Feb. 22. Instead, the territory will now receive a reduced shipment of 4,500 doses this week. The federal government has not publicly confirmed what the second shipment will be, but the Yukon government expects it to be another 4,500 doses.

While Canada’s overall number of Moderna shipments are down to 78 per cent of what was originally expected, the Yukon will only be getting 63 per cent of its expected shipment. Most of the provinces are seeing different allocations, and while still reduced, they are in many places closer to the number they expected.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley said the rationale from the federal government is based on their calculations of risk and vaccination rollout, but both Hanley and Silver said they disagreed with the decision.

“My message to Ottawa has been and continues to be we’re ready, willing and able with the vaccines. I’ve said directly to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, whoever will listen, that they stand to benefit as well,” Silver said.

“We’re doing our part to make sure that we put the pressure on Ottawa to say we are ready for those vaccines,” he said.

For now, the lower doses will delay the mass clinic for Whitehorse residents over 18 years of age. The clinic was originally expected to open Feb. 10, but there is now not enough doses to begin that stage of the rollout.

While other jurisdictions have adapted in different ways — Quebec has decided to give only one dose instead of two — Yukon will focus on guaranteeing second doses for all Yukoners who have already received a first dose.

Silver refused to speculate on any contingency plans the government is making if the shortage becomes a trend, rather than a “blip.”

“We’re very confident that we will receive enough doses in the coming months for every Yukoner who wants to be immunized,” Silver said.

Mobile clinics continue journey

So far the territory has handed out 9,931 first doses.

This week the mobile vaccine teams are travelling to Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay, Carmacks, Faro, Haines Junction, Mayo and Stewart Crossing to administer first vaccines.

In Haines Junction the team was greeted by a candle-lit path organized by local residents.

“They’re in big rooms all day long. And to be honest, I don’t know how it feels to be doing this kind of work,” said Angie Charlebois, deputy mayor of Haines Junction. “We knew we wanted to do something to show our appreciation and gratitude and lift the spirits of people who are working hard.”

Charlebois said a number of residents of the community currently work in or are retired from healthcare. Together, a number of community residents created around 140 lanterns from ice and lit a tea light inside each, lighting the path of the bus carrying the team.

A second vaccine dose is being administered to all staff and residents of long-term care homes beginning Feb. 1 and front-line health care workers will also be getting their second shot.

Those who have already received a shot, including people living in the communities and Whitehorse residents over 60 will be able to book second doses on the Yukon website early next week.

Mobile teams will be visiting the communities for follow-up doses in February and early March. Hanley noted that people who missed the first dose or were hesitant at the time will be able to book their first shot at that time.

A third visit to the communities will take place following the second visit in order to administer the last of the second doses.

Hanley says variants may impact reopening plans

Hanley said the government is carefully monitoring the new COVID-19 variants that have appeared around the world and made their way to Canada. Some of the mutated virus versions are more contagious than the original COVID-19 variant, creating an increased risk.

“We have seen a few more twists and turns in this pandemic that we need to address. Although the hope (from vaccines) remains, there’s no doubt that the rise of the variants has tempered the enthusiasm,” he said. “But even if the road is a little more rocky, vaccines are still our way out of this pandemic.”

Hanley said the government is carefully considering lifting restrictions in the future, including the closure of the B.C. border, but the effectiveness of the vaccines and the progress of the variants will be factors to keep a close eye on.

Contact Haley Ritchie at