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GN not divulging community-level vaccination numbers

The Government of Nunavut (GN) will not be releasing community-specific vaccination levels, citing a number of concerns, namely misinformation and stigma around the vaccine.

The Government of Nunavut (GN) will not be releasing community-specific vaccination levels, citing a number of concerns, namely misinformation and stigma around the vaccine.

“The concern was raised (that) if we do that, then certain communities, that for whatever reason have a low-uptake, will get shamed or it’ll contribute to misinformation and stigma,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer, during a Covid-19 update on March 9 at the Nunavut Legislature.

“We can see that there’s a lot of shame and stigma with the numbers around infection. That is unfortunate and we need to work on that, because that’s counterproductive. It doesn’t help and it definitely creates harm.”

Patterson added there is “no public health rationale or reason to communicate that level of information.”

Vaccine hesitancy, stigma and misinformation

Last week, Nunavut’s Health Minister Lorne Kusugak spoke to the Legislative Assembly with regards to vaccine hesitancy and the stigma around it.

Nunavut's Health Minister Lorne Kusugak speaking at the Nunavut Legislature on March 9. Trevor Wright/NNSL Photo

“I understand that there are people who will not be vaccinated because they don’t want to be. We understand that there are people who cannot be vaccinated but who wish they could be,” said Kusugak.

“Our Department is doing the best we can to put out facts and as quickly as we can.”

“There are people on the other side that are trying to misinform. I think it is a battle we won’t win, but I think it’s a battle that we will not give up lightly on.”

Currently the GN’s Covid-19 vaccine dose statistics reveals the amount of first doses, second doses and total vaccine doses administered territory-wide.

As of March 9, there were a total 14,943 vaccine doses administered, with 9,426 first doses and 5,517 second doses administered.

“There’s 24,000 adults roughly and 9,400 people have received one dose, and of those 9,400, 5,000 have received their second dose,” Patterson said.

The second dose numbers are being used to count the percentage of overall people vaccinated in Nunavut, which now sits at roughly 39 per cent.

Covid-related restrictions are being eased in Arviat and the success of the community’s vaccination campaign was cited as one of the reasons for that change.

With the majority of highest-risk adults in Arviat protected from severe Covid disease by inoculation, “the impact of Covid-19 on the health of Arviat is much different than it was in November, December,” said Patterson.

Starting on Monday, March 15, vaccinations will be open to everyone in Iqaluit 18 or over. The opening to make appointments starts on March 10.

Currently the Iqaluit vaccination campaign is going steady, with nearly 100 people per day receiving their first or second dose.

While the GN has been able to meet the logistical challenges associated with the vaccine rollout, there have been challenges with regards to other factors out of their control, namely that of the amount of Moderna Covid-19 vaccines they will be getting any given shipment.

“That’s dependent on decisions that are happening at the company’s level in Europe, that has created some challenges, but we think within the next week or two, we’ll have our final shipment to meet that goal of having enough doses for 75 percent of adults by the end of March,” Patterson said.

“Right now there’s five or six communities that have not completed its first dose, there’s two that are starting today (March 9).”

Patterson says his office is hopeful that by late April they will have finished the "majority if not all" the second dose clinics.

"We will continue to work to ensure that all Nunavummiut that want the vaccination will get one," said Kusugak.