Pfizer vaccine available for Yellowknife youth this week; communities in ‘coming weeks’

Preparing a dose of the Moderna vaccine. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Health and Social Services)

The NWT is expanding its vaccination plan to include residents between 12 and 17.

The decision comes after Health Canada approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for people as young as 12 years old.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) said it had received 1,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Those doses will be reserved for residents under 18 until more arrive.

“Introducing a second product into the NWT’s inventory will allow for a more flexible, sustainable, and reliable COVID-19 vaccine program,” reads a news release.

Yellowknife first 

HSS says these first doses will be going first to youth 12-17 in Yellowknife to try and address the growing outbreak. Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer, said earlier this week that many active cases are school children.

More than 1,100 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the NWT on May 4. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Health and Social Services)

Appointments for youth 12-17 can be made through the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) website for May 6 to 8. HSS says more appointments will be available once there is more supply.

Youth in this category from other communities — except Behchokǫ̀ — that happen to be in Yellowknife on these dates can also book an appointment. The department says it is reserving doses to administer to youth in Behchokǫ̀ next week.

The Tłı̨chǫ Government has now announced there will be a youth clinic vacccine in the community on May 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kó Gocho Sportsplex. Parents that wish to have their children vaccinated should contact the health centre.

HSS says there will once again be teams travelling to the communities to administer the Pfizer vaccine to the 12-17 age range. But that will only be done once more doses arrive “in the coming weeks.” The NTHSSA’s vaccine clinic schedule will be updated at that time.

Any residents 18 and older can still access the Moderna vaccine by contacting their local public health unit or health centre. Fort Smith, Inuvik, Hay River and Yellowknife have doses on-hand; residents in small communities will be added to a list for the next available vaccination opportunity.

According to GNWT’s latest vaccination data, the territory has administered just over 48,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Residents between 18 and 29 have the lowest rate of vaccination in the territory — more than half have not received a vaccine.

The Tłı̨chǫ and Sahtú regions have the lowest rates of vaccination overall. Though Behchokǫ̀ will be hosting a pop-up vaccine clinic on Thursday, May 6 for residents 18 and older.

Asymptomatic vaccination when isolating

Residents that are isolating and asymptomatic will now also be allowed to receive their vaccine during their isolation period. They must first email for written approval to do so.

According to the news release, the NWT has requested 18,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccine over the next three months, though it doesn’t specify which type.

The Pfizer vaccine can be administered three weeks apart instead of the minimum 28 days of Moderna’s.

“Less time between doses allows faster movement towards full vaccination and the potential for some students having both doses before summer break begins,” reads the release.

However, it adds that it will not be exchanging all of its Moderna doses for Pfizer’s.

“Enough doses will be kept to give second doses of Moderna to anyone with a first dose,” says the release.

Updated May 6 at 11 a.m. with new information from the Tłı̨chǫ Government about the vaccine clinic for youth.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.