Nunavut is looking to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine once it is available in Canada.
The territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, says Moderna’s vaccine is preferred because the Pfizer one requires cold storage and shipping would be too difficult in Nunavut.
On Thursday, Canada’s senior military and public health officials said provinces should have their first sites ready to receive vaccines by Dec. 14.
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored around -80 C and has “very strict shipping limitations,” Patterson said Friday.
“I don’t know of anyone who thinks it’s really appropriate for most remote or isolated communities to use that vaccine. We’re going to be getting most, if not all, of our vaccine with the Moderna vaccine,” he said.
“Bottom line is the more people get it, the less chance there will be of further outbreaks.”
Patterson said Iqaluit is the only community where it would be possible to store the Pfizer vaccine.
Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut’s health minister, said his team has been lobbying to “have Nunavut in the priority list” for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“To deliver the vaccine in our communities it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort,” said Kusugak, who noted that Nunavut has 25 fly-in-only communities.
The territory’s rapid outbreak of COVID-19 that started with its first case in early November continues to shrink.
Rankin Inlet, which once had 19 cases, was fully recovered Friday.
“This is good news. It means we are moving in the right direction and we can be optimistic,” Patterson said. “But this does not mean that we can relax on the public-health measures and it does not mean the outbreaks are over.”
Rankin Inlet residents drove their all-terrain vehicles and cars through town Thursday to celebrate the news that everyone in the community had recovered. Videos posted to Facebook showed health staff in several Nunavut communities, including Rankin Inlet, dancing a jig to mark the good news.
There were still 44 active cases in Arviat, however, and Patterson said there is still evidence of community transmission. Arviat is still under lockdown to try to slow the spread.
“We know that some people are still visiting houses and getting together. What we can say for certain is that the sooner that that stops, the sooner we’ll be able to get everybody recovered and declare the outbreak over,” Patterson said.
There were still seven active cases in Whale Cove, as well.
Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove are all coastal communities along the western shore of Hudson Bay.
Nunavut had a total of 51 active cases and 155 recovered cases Friday.
Patterson said fewer than five residents with COVID-19 had been air-lifted to a hospital in Winnipeg, where they were in stable condition.
“We’re not going to discuss numbers and not going to discuss community of origin,” he said.