Nunavut wants Pfizer vaccine for teens; N.W.T. hopes to send kids back to class

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says the government is working to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for teens but there is no timeline on when doses might arrive.

Dr. Michael Patterson says communities with ongoing outbreaks or communities at higher risk would be prioritized for the vaccine.

“Iqaluit will likely be the first community to have Pfizer vaccine offered to children who are 12 and over,” Patterson said Wednesday.

There were 69 active cases reported in Nunavut on Wednesday, all in Iqaluit. Four residents have been flown to Ottawa to be treated and one of them is in intensive care.

Patterson said almost one-quarter of Iqaluit’s cases are in residents under 18. The oldest infected person is in the 70-plus group.

Statistics Canada says Nunavut has the youngest population in Canada, with just over 31 per cent of residents under the age of 15.

The capital has about 8,000 people and is under strict public health orders. All schools, non-essential businesses and workplaces are closed. All indoor and outdoor gatherings are banned and masks are mandatory whenever people leave their households.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said his government met last week with Iqaluit bylaw officers, RCMP and sheriffs from the Nunavut Court of Justice about how to enforce public health measures.

He said 39 complaints had been made to enforcement agencies as of May 5, but no tickets have been issued.

Last week, Patterson said many of Iqaluit’s new cases were coming from house parties. He urged anyone who attended a party in the last three weeks to be tested for COVID-19.

“Iqalummiut, I’m not sure how else we can say this: Please stop gathering,” Savikataaq said.

“The parties, the social interactions with people outside your household and the time outside with others without wearing your mask are just not worth it.”

To date, about 80 per cent of Iqaluit’s adults have received at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine, while about half of the territory’s adults have received one dose.

On Tuesday, federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced more than $19 million for Nunavut’s COVID-19 response.

Savikataaq said the money will be used for remote learning, child care, social supports and correctional services. He said the government is still reviewing how the funds will be distributed.

Meanwhile, the Northwest Territories said Wednesday it hopes to get students back into classrooms on Monday after an outbreak in Yellowknife forced schools to close

There have been 61 confirmed cases of COVID-19 related to an outbreak at N.J. Macpherson school in the city and over 1,000 people have been asked to isolate as a result.

Students will have to follow public health measures when they return, including mandatory indoor masking and opening windows while on school buses.

Last week, the N.W.T. started offering the Pfizer vaccine to youth between 12 and 17 after it swapped doses of the Moderna vaccine with British Columbia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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