There are plenty of things to be thankful for this holiday season, including the light at the end of the tunnel that we hope vaccination for our younger residents will prove to be.
The first round of Covid-19 vaccination clinics for children aged 5 to 11 wrapped up Dec. 9 in all Nunavut communities, with vaccine clinics still available in Iqaluit.
A proof of vaccination certificate, complete with a scannable QR code, has been available to Nunavummiut at their community health centres since Oct. 12.
This proof is the only thing fully-vaccinated travellers now need to re-enter the territory, replacing the exemption letter from public health that was required prior to Dec. 1.
This has been a positive step to reduce the amount of paperwork Nunavummiut needed to travel, and will surely cut down on some of those extra hours of work required to grant exemptions to the many folks leaving the territory during the busy holiday travel season.
Restrictions are easing in communities that saw the most recent outbreaks of the virus. Pond Inlet and Coral Harbour are both seeing gathering limits increased after the passage of several weeks since the last reported cases, and while there is one Covid-19 case in Iqaluit at the time this was written, no further restrictions have been introduced.
Meanwhile, in the Kivalliq, both Rankin Inlet and Arviat have passed bylaws – on Nov. 30 and Dec. 6, respectively – to require anyone over the age of 12 to show proof of vaccination to enter municipal buildings in either community.
In Rankin Inlet, these facilities include the community hall, the arena or any hamlet building hosting a public gathering such as bingo nights, weddings or public meetings “regardless if the event is hamlet sponsored or a third party is sponsoring the event.”
The Rankin bylaw takes a particularly hard line on exemptions, stating, “Persons exempted from vaccination due to auto-immune deficiencies, allergies or other conditions, should not be gathering in large crowds to start with … and will not be exempted from this bylaw.”
Exceptions will only be made for unvaccinated residents to attend vaccination clinics in municipal buildings, or to make payments and apply for permits, services and programs, though they’ll be required to wear a mask while inside.
These sorts of bylaws may sound extreme if you’re in the minority of folks uncomfortable or just plain opposed to vaccination – whatever your personal reasons – but the community leadership pushing for these regulations are adamant they are trying to protect people the best way they can, and it’s hard to blame them for wanting to open up capacity in community halls and arenas to make the most of the indoor season.
It’s difficult to swallow a capacity of 50 people inside a $30-million arena that has 950 seats and managed only four months of operation in full-swing since its grand opening in November 2019.
There’s no word yet on whether the GN will push for the same mandate across the territory. The department recently stated that newly-appointed Health Minister John Main will have to give input and feedback before any such decision could be made.
With 83 per cent of Nunavummiut over age 12 fully vaccinated and a whopping 92 per cent having received their first dose of protection, Nunavummiut are already doing what they can to protect their neighbours.
Proof of vaccination would be a proactive step in ensuring that public spaces remain as safe as possible for all Nunavummiut, including our youngest and most vulnerable.