Northwest Territories Expands COVID-19 Vaccine Program

News Releases

Yellowknife — May 5, 2021

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is announcing the expansion of its COVID-19 vaccine program to include the Pfizer-BioNTech product, which is approved for individuals 12 years of age and older.

To date, the NWT’s program has been solely based on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved for those 18 years of age and older. After successful negotiations with the National Operation Centre (NOC) and provinces, the GNWT is exchanging future shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for Pfizer-BioNTech to protect as many residents as possible from the virus. 

Just over 1,100 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech arrived safely in the NWT yesterday, May 4. Additional shipments are expected in the coming weeks. Due to limited supply, doses of Pfizer-BioNTech will not be offered to adults 18 years of age and older at this time; but this age group can still access the Moderna vaccine.

Introducing a second product into the NWT’s inventory will allow for a more flexible, sustainable, and reliable COVID-19 vaccine program. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine wass approved today by Health Canada for those 12 years of age and older, allowing for greater vaccine coverage. The GNWT decided on this proactive measure to expand vaccine eligibility in part because of the increased prevalence of more contagious and deadly variants of concern, which pose a threat to the unvaccinated population and health system capacity.

Due to recent clusters of COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife involving young people, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be offered first to youth aged 12-17 in Yellowknife between May 6 and 8, 2021. Appointments can be booked on a first-come, first-served basis via the NTHSSA website, and additional opportunities will be added once resources and supply allow.

Youth from other NWT communities who happen to be in Yellowknife during this time are allowed to book appointments to be vaccinated. Doses will be held back for youth aged 12-17 in Behchokǫ̀ and offered next week. Those 18 years of age and older in all NWT communities are still able access the Moderna vaccine by contacting the local public health unit or health centre.

Additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected in the coming weeks, which will be delivered to youth aged 12-17 in all other NWT communities. Details for upcoming clinics will be posted to www.nthssa.ca/covid-vaccine, shared via GNWT and NTHSSA social media pages, and communicated broadly once finalized.

Additionally, protocols and procedures have been updated and streamlined to facilitate more regular vaccine availability to asymptomatic individuals in isolation. Giving vaccine to someone during their isolation period requires additional personal protective equipment and coordination to ensure the safety of staff, clients, and others at the clinic. Starting today, asymptomatic people will be permitted to get vaccinated during their isolation period after e-mailing CPHO@gov.nt.ca to seek prior written approval.

The GNWT remains committed to reducing barriers to ensure all eligible residents have safe and equitable access to vaccine.

Quotes

“On behalf of all residents of the NWT, I would like to thank our vaccine team for facilitating this important expansion of our vaccine program.  This approach will give increased protection to  youth,  schools, and  communities at a time when we need it most.

-Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services

 

“Protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, school staff and communities has been our top priority since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Partnerships for the exchange of vaccine positions us to offer further protection when we need it most.

-R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education Culture and Employment

 

Quick facts

  • Expanding the NWT’s COVID-19 vaccine program to include Pfizer-BioNTech is beneficial for a few reasons:
    • Youth aged 12 years and older are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will offer increased protection to our schools and communities. Moderna’s potential approval for this age group is still months away.
    • The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine comes in vials of six doses compared to Moderna vials of 10 doses. A lower number of doses per vial gives health authorities a lower threshold for sending vaccine into a community and reduces the likelihood of wastage.
    • Doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given three weeks apart, instead of the minimum of four weeks required with Moderna. Less time between doses allows faster movement towards full vaccination and the potential for some students having both doses before summer break begins.   
    • The cold chain requirements for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been updated to bring it closer to what we have been trained for to handle with the Moderna vaccine. The NWT is well positioned to offer this vaccine now due to stronger infrastructure and staffing capacity.
  • The NWT has requested a total of 18,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccine during the second quarter of 2021 to protect additional residents and to continue vaccinating non-resident rotational workers at high risk of bringing the virus into the NWT. 
  • The NWT will not be exchanging all of its Moderna vaccine allotment for Pfizer-BioNTech. Enough doses will be kept to give second doses of Moderna to anyone with a first dose, and to provide flexibility within the NWT’s vaccine program.

Related links

 

Media Requests, please contact:

Damien Healy

Manager of Communications

Department of Health and Social Services

Government of the Northwest Territories

Damien_Healy@gov.nt.ca

(867) 767-9052 ext. 49034