After receiving its first shipment of 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Greenland health authorities say they will begin vaccinating nursing-home residents and front-line health-care personnel in Nuuk and Ilulissat early next week.
The vaccine was sent from Denmark on Tuesday. It’s expected to send a second round of the vaccine to Greenland later in the month.
In keeping with Greenland’s approach to COVID-19, its vaccination strategy is aimed at keeping the virus that causes the illness out of the country. However, with the limited number of vaccines available, it has has chosen to vaccinate elderly residents first in an effort to prevent at-risk groups from contracting the illness.
The choice of Nuuk and Ilulissat was a matter of logistics, according to Henrik L. Hansen, the chief medical officer.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at extremely cold temperatures and is difficult to transport and administer, which means it is impractical to send to most parts of Greenland.
Currently, only Nuuk has equipment that can store the vaccine at the required minus 80 degrees Celsius.
More widespread vaccination is expected in January, when a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, is expected to be approved by the EU.
“It’s much easier to work with,” Hansen said.
The advantages of the Moderna vaccine, according to Hansen, are that it can can be stored in standard hospital freezers and does not require special training to administer.
“Once it is approved by the EU, it will be the preferred vaccine,” he said.
News of the vaccine’s arrival comes as the total number of known, active cases of COVID-19 in Greenland grew to seven after three people in the town of Aasiaat tested positive in the days before and after Christmas. In all, there have been 27 cases of COVID-19.