Julie Green: News Conference, GNWT Vaccine Approach

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — December 11, 2020

Check against delivery.

Good afternoon.

This is an exciting and long-anticipated day for our territory.

As our federal colleagues confirmed yesterday, I am pleased to confirm that the Northwest Territories expects to receive enough of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for 75% of eligible NWT adult residents, 18 years of age or older.

Through 2021 we expect to receive enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone who wants it. That said, I know that residents are anxious to confirm who will be a priority for the first round, along with how and when it will be delivered.

Work is well underway confirming this detail for immunization of each NWT community. The vaccination plan will factor in the unique geography and population of our territory along with recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

But before this plan is finalized, essential information and collaboration is required.

First, we need to wait for Health Canada to authorize use of the Moderna vaccine in Canada. We don’t expect this to take long. This is a two-dose vaccine, with the second dose delivered about a month after the first dose. Two doses are required to make the vaccine fully effective.

Second, we need to know from our Federal colleagues exactly when the first allotted amount of vaccine will arrive in the territory. Delivery is expected between January and March 2021.

Third, we need to engage with Indigenous and community governments, who will inform decision-making for vaccine prioritization. Engagement is a critical part of respecting residents and developing a well-rounded, collaborative approach.

In the meantime, we are preparing for the vaccine’s arrival.

We are establishing vaccine teams made up of nurses and support staff. These teams will travel to communities to help local health care professionals deliver the vaccine to residents. We are also ensuring registered nurses receive specialized COVID-19 vaccine training.

We are identifying data management for vaccine documentation and second dose coordination. We are also determining reporting that will meet Public Health Agency of Canada requirements.

We are coordinating with the federal government for delivery of supplies such as needles, syringes, alcohol swabs, and personal protective equipment to be used during immunization. Supplies have been set aside specifically for the NWT and will arrive before we receive our first vaccine shipments.

Two specialized freezers are on their way from the federal government with enough capacity for the entire territory’s vaccine needs. These freezers will be installed at the Stanton Territorial Hospital and Inuvik Regional Hospital pharmacies to be properly monitored. Portable freezers have been ordered to assist with shipping vaccine to the communities. 

Specialists from the Department of Health and Social Services and Health Authorities are working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Operation Centre to coordinate delivery of vaccine to the Northwest Territories. Planning is underway to safely transport vaccine in the North.

This is just some of the critical work happening behind the scenes to prepare the NWT for vaccination roll-out.

In the coming weeks, we will collaborate with Indigenous and community governments, federal government colleagues, health authorities, and Joint Task Force North to finalize our plan.

I would like to thank everyone involved with this life-saving work, and I look forward to sharing this detailed plan with you in the very near future.

I would also like to take a moment to thank the residents of the Northwest Territories for the sacrifices they have made to protect our communities from COVID-19 and will have to continue to make  

This vaccine does not mean that self-isolation requirements and travel restrictions will be lifted immediately. Vaccine uptake and decreased rates of COVID-19 infection will be necessary in the NWT and the rest of Canada before we can travel easily. But, this vaccine does bring us one step closer to resuming the lives we had before this pandemic.

Finally, I want to touch on a topic that is top of mind for some residents as COVID-19 cases surge in Alberta.

I want to assure you that urgent and emergent care for NWT residents is not impacted at this time. We are considered identical to Alberta residents when it comes to the need for care. That means an Alberta patient will not be prioritized over an NWT resident when their care needs are equally urgent.

The current service reduction in Alberta Health Services is to non-urgent visits and procedures. This reduction is happening across the country in areas where COVID-19 cases are at record highs.

Practitioners are also using and promoting virtual care as much as possible to reduce travel to southern jurisdictions. 

NWT health system officials will continue to work with colleagues at Alberta Health Services and the federal government to mitigate any potential impacts on health care for NWT residents.

Thank you.