Government of the Northwest Territories Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations

News Releases

Yellowknife — December 31, 2020

YELLOWKNIFE (December 31, 2020) – Protecting residents against COVID-19 has been the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) biggest priority since the pandemic began, and today, the GNWT began COVID-19 vaccinations of Northwest Territories (NWT) residents. The first group to receive their vaccinations included residents and staff at the Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home in Behchokǫ̀ and AVENS Manor in Yellowknife.

The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) has categorized residents and staff at long term care as among those at highest risk and a priority for immunization. Priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination in the NWT are as follows:

  • Advanced age: the risk of COVID-19 severity starts to increase after age 60. Most vulnerable in this category are those who live in long-term care facilities or in shared living environments.
  • Existing chronic disease and multiple medical conditions: residents with conditions like chronic lung, kidney, or heart disease are at greater risk for experiencing severe form of COVID-19 and its complications. Those who travel outside the NWT regularly for medical care are at even greater risk.
  • Likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 to those at high risk of severe illness and death is another important consideration. This risk group may include frontline health care workers, or those who provide care to high risk vulnerable populations.
  • Resident workers who live in the NWT, but work regularly outside the NWT or at work camps with out-of-territory workers are at elevated risk of acquiring COVID-19 and transmitting to family, household members or those in the community.
  • Living in a remote community, including Indigenous communities, with limited health infrastructure in comparison to larger centers.

These priority groups will receive the vaccination in a phased approach that will be expanded to the entire eligible NWT population as supply increases. The GNWT continues to work towards a target of March 2021 for completion of our vaccination roll out.

A team from the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) was deployed to vaccinate residents and staff at these two long term care facilities earlier today. The team was made up logisticians, nurses and translators who were also on site to help the local health care staff who are considered the experts in their communities deliver the vaccine.

NWT residents can be confident that top Canadian experts, scientists, and medical professionals carefully reviewed all of the scientific data and evidence for vaccine safety and effectiveness.

NWT residents have a choice whether or not they get the COVID-19 vaccine. Even if you are not at high risk of severe disease from COVID-19, getting vaccinated will help protect those around you who might be. Think of your friends, family, co- workers, elders, and other community members. The GNWT encourages all eligible adult residents to get vaccinated.



“The global scientific community has been engaged in an unprecedented effort to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, and it has been a long and difficult road to get to this day. We have always been committed to protecting residents and communities, especially our most vulnerable. It has been our commitment to evidence-based decision making, and to listening to the advice of our medical professionals and those in the scientific community that we are on the cusp of beginning to overcome one of the biggest challenges our society has ever faced.”

- Caroline Cochrane, Premier of the Northwest Territories; Minister Responsible for the COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat


“This morning, the GNWT vaccinated NWT residents at the two long term care facilities. I am pleased with how the first day of our vaccination roll has gone and excited about the months ahead as we work to vaccinate the rest of our eligible population. Though vaccinations are not mandatory, vaccine uptake will be especially important to protect those who cannot yet receive the Moderna vaccine, including residents who are pregnant, immunocompromised, or less than 18 years of age. It’s important we all play our part in returning the North to life as we knew it before the pandemic and get vaccinated for the safety of our loved ones.”

- Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services


Quick facts:

  • The Moderna vaccine was selected as the most viable vaccine option for all three territories due to its ability to be shipped and stored more easily to remote communities at -20°C. The Pfizer vaccine currently being distributed to other parts of Canada must be stored at -70°C, which requires specialized, costly equipment and presents significant logistical challenges.
  • The NWT received 7200 doses of the Moderna vaccine December 28, 2020
  • The Moderna vaccine requires two doses given four (4) weeks apart to be considered immunized against COVID-19.
  • Travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements will not be lifted immediately upon administration of the vaccine.
  • Public health measures will continue to be essential to stop the spread of COVID-19. Until enough of the territorial and national population have received both doses of the vaccine and risk of infection is significantly decreased, appropriate public health measures will remain in place.
  • Learn as much as you can regarding vaccine safety from trusted websites and sources.

 Related links:

Media Contact:

Damien Healy

Department of Health and Social Services

Government of the Northwest Territories