Yukon strikes deal with Ottawa over Pfizer vaccine to immunize 12- to 17-year-olds

WHITEHORSE — Yukon will start vaccinating all youths between 12 and 17 years old with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the next month, as the territory aims for full vaccination by mid-July.

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee says Yukon has reached a deal with the federal government to get enough doses to fully vaccinate all its 2,641 youth in the age group.

McPhee says the goal is to give a first dose by the end of the school year, but she did not have specifics of the vaccination rollout.

She says the unfolding COVID-19 situation in the Northwest Territories, where an outbreak was linked to an elementary school, and in Nunavut, which has 69 active cases, shows how vulnerable the North still is to COVID-19 cases.

Yukon has had 84 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and now has one active case in a person who obtained the infection from outside the territory.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley says he understands some parents may be wary about having their child vaccinated, but he urged families to take part.

“The question of ‘when will we vaccinate our kids’ has probably been the most common question I’ve had over the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I encourage all parents of youth in this age group to take advantage of this opportunity to protect more Yukon citizens.”

Hanley says about 75 per cent of Yukon’s population has received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and he would like to see similar numbers for the second dose.

The territory originally opted for the Moderna vaccine over concerns about transporting the Pfizer vaccine in ultra-cold temperatures, Hanley says.

However, he says the strict transportation and storage requirements for Pfizer vaccines have changed, making it possible to use in this vaccination plan.

Hanley says he expects the Moderna vaccine to be approved for use in children shortly.

More details on the immunization rollout will be available in the coming weeks, Hanley said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

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