The question of how to handle so-called COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was on the mind of NDP Leader Kate White on Wednesday.
During question period, White vigorously questioned the Liberal government on how it plans to handle the issue, and move the general
population closer to the 80-per-cent benchmark she alleged the government and medical officials want in order to achieve herd immunity.
“I think there’s a real opportunity right now to talk about vaccines and the numbers,” White said.
“We know things have slowed down and so the question is what can the Yukon government do to keep that going?
“We know that in some communities. there hasn’t been such a big uptake. What I’d like to see now from the Yukon government is to see
what their plan is to increase those numbers.”
White said she would prefer to see the travelling clinics continue to the communities on a monthly basis “until we can get those numbers
She also suggested the government should be working with “champions of the communities” to raise the vaccine uptake.
“We need to make sure people can get vaccinated where they are.”
White said she’s concerned that with Yukon youth aged 12-17 becoming eligible for the Pfizer vaccine next month, those problems might continue to worsen.
“It’s unclear where that vaccine outreach is going to go to every community,” she said. “It makes more sense to have those vaccine teams to go into the community to have access to as many people as possible.”
White said she preferred to see that, instead of people having to travel into Whitehorse with a child for the vaccines when the total travel
cost wouldn’t be covered.
Vaccine hesitancy was also a subject of conversation during the COVID-19 briefing held Wednesday.
The chief medical officer of health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, was quizzed on how to address the issue, possibly even by paying people to take
the vaccine. It’s an approach that’s stirring more debate nationally and internationally.
It’s also an idea he wasn’t enthused about, saying it could be construed as coercion.
“That’s a complicated question. I would say it brings up all kinds of issues of equity and injustice and the possibility of over coercion –
perhaps there are other ways to look at other types of incentives,” Hanley said.
“It would bring up questions about those who have been vaccinated already. It would also raise questions about are you coercing people.
“I think we need to be very careful when we go into the line of pushing people or coercing more than they might otherwise have gone and I
think our approaches based on conversations and addressing specific questions and looking for other kinds of incentives (are the way to go).”
Some people, Hanley added, “have been holding back for individual benefit, and that’s normal.
“I want to add, it’s important for us to remember we have been wildly successful with vaccines.”
On May 6, the Yukon Party noted Wednesday, it pressed the government about the potential of bringing the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to the Yukon. The previous day, Health Canada had approved the Pfizer vaccine for use for young people aged 12 and up.
The Yukon Party pointed out the Northwest Territories had negotiated an exchange of Moderna vaccine with British Columbia to import and
start vaccinating youth with the Pfizer vaccine last week.
“Students, parents, teachers and school staff have done a tremendous job this school year navigating the pandemic,” Education critic Scott
Kent said Wednesday.
“With students aged 12 to 17 now able to get vaccinated in the near future, this will help as educators prepare for the 2021-2022 school
year over the summer months, as well as keep our youth healthy and safe,” said Kent, a former Education minister.
“The Yukon Party was happy to advocate for this so that the territory’s students and children could begin to be vaccinated.”