The Yukon government is hastily revising its vaccine rollout plan after being unable to guarantee one mass shipment of enough COVID-19 doses to inoculate 75 per cent of the adult population of the territory.
Despite promises by the government that it would not receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in “dribs and drabs,” it appears that is exactly what’s happening.
During a COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon, Premier Sandy Silver and Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said there is no fixed, guaranteed schedule to receive more vaccine doses.
Enough vaccine to provide 7,200 shots arrived in the territory on Dec. 29. Rollout of that vaccine to Whitehorse seniors began Monday.
Those doses are enough to fully inoculate 3,300 people. The Moderna vaccine requires two doses approximately a month apart for full effectiveness.
Government and public health officials have decided to use those doses to treat 7,200 people with a single dose while gambling more of the vaccine will arrive in time to provide the necessary second shot for those people.
Silver and Frost said they are expecting equivalent shipments of the vaccine to continue every two weeks.
Silver was quick to note the shipments of the vaccine are in the control of the federal government, leaving the Yukon at the mercy of federal decisions.
That flies in the face of assertions made late last year that the Yukon would receive as many as 50,000 doses in one shipment.
Silver said he had hoped to receive such a shipment, but never promised it. He was planning to bring the matter up at a First Ministers’ conference Thursday evening (see separate story, this page).
The official Opposition Yukon Party wasn’t happy with that news.
“While we are pleased to see the first few Yukoners receive the vaccine earlier this week, we are disappointed that the premier has missed every single timeline that he set for the Liberal government’s vaccine rollout,” the party stated in an email to the Star.
“The premier told Yukoners that vaccines would be in the Yukon ‘a mere 48 hours after approval’ of the Moderna vaccine – that did not happen,” the party pointed out.
“The premier told Yukoners that we would be getting all of the vaccines at once – that did not happen, as we have only received a fraction of our allotment so far.
“Now we see that the Yukon has one of lowest vaccination rates in the country so far.”
On Dec. 9, the Yukon Party noted, Silver told reporters, “We want quick delivery of the complete package all at once. We don’t want it coming in in dribs and drabs. We want to see all of it up front and we want it as timely as possible.”
On Thursday, the government has released a schedule for administering the COVID-19 vaccine in the territory.
Two mobile teams will provide vaccinations in communities across the territory, starting the week of Jan. 18, according to the schedule.
“Each mobile team will travel with multiple immunizers providing the vaccine to as many people as possible while they are in each community,” it states.
“The Whitehorse vaccination clinic is scheduled to open the week of Jan. 18.”
The local clinic will be open 12 hours a day six days a week until the supply of vaccine runs out. It will continue on those hours if more arrives.
“Over the next several weeks, vaccinations will be available for other priority groups, including front-line health care staff, older adults, as well as high-risk and vulnerable populations,” the schedule stated.
Three hundred and 10 people had been inoculated by Wednesday.
Also starting Jan. 18, the mobile teams are slated to arrive in Watson Lake, Lower Post and Upper Liard. A second team will travel to Beaver Creek and Old Crow.
“It’s not an easy task to organize,” said Frost. “But we should be grateful for the vaccines we have received.”
The officials also discussed the nine new cases discovered in the territory during the first week of January during the briefing.
All are related to out-of-territory travelling, Dr. Brendan Hanley said. They have occurred in two clusters, with six people connected in the first, and three in the second.
The cluster of three represents one household.
All are doing well, Hanley said, and are following the proper safety protocols.
Forty-eight people are self-isolating as possible contacts mostly related to the two clusters, while their test results are pending.
“It’s tough news to start the year with,” Hanley said. “But COVID should always be assumed to be active in the community.
Five new charges have been laid under the Civil Emergency Management Act.
One of those is for failing to wear a mask, Silver said. Three more are for failing to self-isolate properly. The fifth is for failing to follow the quarantine plan.
Three more cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by Yukon government and health officials on Thursday.
The three new cases are related to out-of-territory travel, according to Hanley, and represent one household.
That’s nine new cases for the Yukon this year – after cases were nearly eradicated by the end of December.
The total case count for the territory is now 69.
All of the nine new cases are in Whitehorse. Hanley said all are doing well and following safety protocols.