Signage set up during a mobile vaccination clinic in Old Crow on Feb. 19. The Yukon government has recently released vaccine data for all Yukon communities. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Signage set up during a mobile vaccination clinic in Old Crow on Feb. 19. The Yukon government has recently released vaccine data for all Yukon communities. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Vaccine acceptance rates vary across the Yukon

Chief medical officer says vaccines for youth are on their way.

The territorial government has released a more complete picture of the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines in the Yukon.

On May 17, the government announced that the territory has received a 76 per cent vaccination rate among eligible adults.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer of health, provided a breakdown of vaccination rates in communities across the territory.

The data presented by the Yukon government shows a range of vaccine acceptance among eligible adults in the different communities.

On one end of the spectrum, Ross River saw only 33 per cent of eligible adults receive their first dose of the vaccine between Jan. 1 and May 1, and 28 per cent receive their second dose in the same timeframe.

Haines Junction and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation (CAFN) have become the most thoroughly vaccinated communities in the territory. According to the Yukon government, 88 per cent of eligible adults received the first dose of the vaccine there between Jan. 1 and May 1 and 81 per cent were fully vaccinated by May 1.

In a May 10 statement celebrating the success of vaccination efforts in the community, the CAFN details a number of community efforts that supported the vaccine rollout. It mentioned proactive communication about the vaccines and vaccine clinics and easy access to vaccine information including Q&A sessions with the Haines Junction nurse in charge.

Assistance including help with booking appointments and rides to the clinic were also offered.

“Our goal is to make sure that every person who wants to get the vaccine has access and is able to get it,” said CAFN Chief Steve Smith.

“We’re very proud of our community members who have looked at the science, weighed the risks and benefits, and made the informed choice to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Dúch’į Shį – We will always do what we must do to ensure the safety of our people.”

The other communities in the territory range between 50 and 76 per cent of adults having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Originally the government said it would not release detailed data by community, due to concerns that public pressure would pit different communities against each other.

On May 12 McPhee said that the decision to release more detailed information was made in consultation with communities.

“We have been regularly in touch with First Nations chiefs and councils, leaders in their communities, as well as with municipalities and their councils and mayors,” McPhee said. “They are best informed as to how we should interact with them and how we can work with them going forward to make sure that when decisions are being made, they take into account what the local situation is and what their wishes and desires and concerns are.”

Hanley said vaccine hesitancy is normal and predictable in a campaign like the COVID-19 vaccination. Although many people got their vaccine as soon as possible in what he called a “rush of enthusiasm,” he recognized that others are waiting for more time to pass and more information to become available.

“It’s not about blame. It’s not about not being successful. It’s about identifying, at the beginning, something that needs to be addressed,” said Hanley. “It’s about working with the ones who are in that gray area, the people that need more time and need more specific questions answered, to work with them to move them into the camp of comfortably receiving the vaccine.”

– With files from Haley Ritchie

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com

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