Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by Health Canada, after thorough review, the department announced Wednesday.
The first doses will arrive in Nunavut in early January, said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, on a CBC radio broadcast on Dec. 23.
The initial shipment will be 6,o00 doses, according to Chris Puglia, the health department’s spokesperson.
Earlier this month, Patterson said he estimated the territory will have received enough of Moderna’s vaccine to inoculate 75 per cent of adults in Nunavut by the end of March 2021.
The vaccine is approved for people 18 and older. Studies on its use for children 12 and older are ongoing, Health Canada said in a news release.
There will be vaccine clinics in Nunavut communities, and participation will not be mandatory.
Patterson said he estimates that by the end of March 2021, “everyone who wants a vaccine should have had an opportunity to have two doses.”
The Moderna vaccine requires two doses, several weeks apart.
It is not yet known how many doses will be sent to Nunavut, but Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said Canada will receive up to 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of the month.
This particular vaccine is suitable to distribute to northern communities because of its storage and handling requirements, Health Canada said.
The first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in Canada, by Pfizer, needs to be stored in special freezers to keep it at -70 C, while the Moderna vaccine can be stored at -20 C.
Premier encourages Nunavummiut to get vaccinated
He encouraged Nunavummiut to get the vaccine.
“I know I will as soon as it’s my turn.”
He reminded Nunavummiut that the Moderna vaccine is safe, and urged them to reference evidence-based information instead of information on social media.
“You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine,” he said.
“I understand the uncertainty and historical mistrust surrounding vaccines in the North.”
Once the territory knows exactly when and how many doses are coming, a plan will be finalized to distribute them across Nunavut and to remote communities, said Savikataaq.
High-risk Nunavummiut like elders, caregivers and front line workers will be first in line for the
vaccine, he said.
“I’m very excited about this news,” said Premier Joe Savikataaq in a written statement Dec. 23.