The rollout of the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 is going as planned in Nunavut and the number of people deciding to get inoculated against the virus is gaining momentum, said Nunavut Health Minister Lorne Kusugak Jan. 31.
Kusugak said the movement towards getting the Moderna vaccine has been so strong in the Kivalliq, that the expected number of people to get inoculated will likely be surpassed in the region.
"Every dose (1,181) of the vaccine was given in Rankin Inlet and they ran out of doses in Chesterfield Inlet, as well," said Kusugak.
"When you're running out of vials, that's a very good sign."
Kusugak said more than 1,000 people have received the vaccination in Arviat, which has been the hardest-hit community by Covid-19 in Nunavut to date.
He said there's still some work to do in Arviat, but they're starting to hit the numbers they'd like to see vaccinated in the community.
"It's been really frustrating battling against all the misinformation on social media and, you know, with some against the vaccine, I don't think they believe it themselves when they say it's no good and if you get it you're going to grow a third arm, turn into a monkey or all the other crap that's out there.
"Some of them throw it out there because they enjoy watching people get confused and upset over it and that's really scary."
Kusugak said he understands people's frustrations with Covid. He said the government is constantly working on how it might loosen the isolation stage, for example, and make it easier for people to travel.
"We need to start with herd immunity and go for as high a number as we can.
"If everyone would get their shots, that would greatly help us get to where we all want to be and that's life closer to how it was pre-Covid.
"It's constant conversation about Covid at every level and other provinces are now starting to finally see the benefits of what we've been doing in Nunavut – you hear now of people having to isolate for two weeks, like in Winnipeg now, and that's the kind of thing we've already gone through and done, so it's good to see the other provinces are now walking down that path.
"It's not affecting us for medical travel right now in Manitoba, thankfully, but those discussions on how we're going to be able to loosen the bubble and get back to life as it was are still going on as we speak."
Kusugak said the problems Canada is having right now with some of the suppliers of the vaccine won't affect anyone in Nunavut who has had their first dose of the vaccine.
The US-based company Moderna was set to deliver around 230,000 shots of it's Covid-19 vaccine in the beginning of February to Canada, however that has since been scaled down to 180,000 according to the Government of Canada's vaccine rollout page.
That same page shows the expected 6,000 doses Nunavut was set to receive on Feb. 1 has also been scaled down to 3,400 for the first week of February, the site notes that "deliveries are expected to carry-over into the second week of February."
"(It's) being reviewed on an operational level and the bulletin may be adjusted if necessary, but we don't have anything else to say at this time," said Danarae Sommerville, communications specialist at Nunavut's Department of Health.
There are similar scaled down shipments of the Moderna vaccine as well throughout the North with the NWT and Yukon set to receive 4,700 and 4,500 doses respectively.
A spokesperson for Moderna stated that it is up to the federal government on how it handles vaccine distribution once it arrives in Canada.
"Moderna's contract is with the Government of Canada through the Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) Department, and covers the delivery of vaccines up to the point where it is accepted for delivery to Canada," said Paul Monlezun, the principal advisor for public affairs advisors, which manages communications with media for Moderna in Canada.
Won't affect final counts by April
Kusugak said the Government of Nunavut has made sure that anyone who is getting the first dose of the Moderna vaccine against Covid is guaranteed their second dose.
"It won't affect our final counts at the end April. The only inconvenience we may have – if the number of doses we're expecting drops for a bit – is that we won't be able to vaccinate as many communities at one time as we had hoped.
"For everyone who has had their first shot, the vaccine for their second shot is already here.
"We're the land of blizzards and cancellations. So, we took everything into account and there won't be any second round not happening here.
"Everyone who has had the first round is guaranteed a second needle."
– with files from Trevor Wright