Booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine will now be available to all adults over the age of 18 in the Yukon as the territory experiences first cases of the new Omicron variant.
“We’re truly in a fortunate position to offer boosters for all adults,” said Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee.
McPhee said the priority is still first shots for Yukoners from ages five to 11 and acknowledged that appointments booked up quickly. The Whitehorse vaccine clinic will be exclusively serving children from Dec. 13 to 17 in order to make sure all children have a chance to get vaccinated prior to Christmas.
New recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization came out on Dec. 4, recommending booster shots for adults due to the waning effectiveness of the first round of vaccinations.
Boosters are recommended for adults who have passed the mark of six months since their original vaccination.
Adults aged 18 to 29 will be offered Pfizer, due to an extremely rare risk of heart inflammation among young men present with the Moderna vaccine. Adults aged 30 and over will be offered a Moderna booster.
People in Whitehorse aged 18 and older will be able to book appointments for booster shots online, similar to the previous rounds. Elliot said appointments will be limited because of children remaining the priority, but all of those eligible should be able to receive a booster by January.
“I urge everyone to be patient. Please be kind and be thankful as we move together through this time. Yes, it’s important we all get vaccinated as quickly as possible, and important that we maintain the qualities that make the Yukon, the home and place that we all love to live,” said Elliot.
Booster clinics in communities are already open and more will be added in the coming weeks.
The territory has seen a steady downward trend in the number of cases.
Dr. Catherine Elliot, Yukon’s acting chief medical officer, said as of Dec. 8 there are 44 cases in the Yukon, with a daily average of eight new cases.
Elliot said this is a “manageable level” of cases. Since October 2020, 14 Yukoners have died from the virus.
Elliot also addressed Omicron in her update on Wednesday, noting that the current health restrictions are staying in place to prevent a major spike in cases over the high-risk holiday period.
This week there have been two confirmed cases of Omicron in the territory, but Elliot said the two cases have been contained.
“We anticipated this. We were prepared and this has been very well managed by the excellent staff at Yukon Communicable Disease Control,” said Elliot. “The infected individuals in this situation are all taking the appropriate precautions to contain their disease and to help protect the community.”
“The vaccine effectiveness against Omicron is not known at this time, and there’s speculation. We expect the vaccine effectiveness will hold, and particularly against severe illness and death,” said Elliot. “Regardless of what speculation is out there, we must follow the science. This does not change the fact that vaccines are critical to reduce severe illness and death, and they are our best shot.”
McPhee said 94.2 per cent of employees have received their first dose. Of those 1.8 are full-time employees, around 107 individuals. The remainder are casual or on-call employees, representing 3.3 per cent of the total workforce.
“The public health measures we introduced last month have been effective and we want to thank all of you who’ve done your part to adjust to the new public health measures and limit the transition. We are grateful for all of your efforts and diligence,” said McPhee.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that 14 Yukoners have died from COVID-19 since 2021. It has been corrected to 2020.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com