It’s a dark, cold morning on the runway at the Whitehorse airport. Nurse Kelsey Short sits in the aisle seat at the back of Air North flight 171. Beside her, taking up the entirety of the window seat, is a plain white box.
“That might be a problem,” comes a voice from behind her at the tail end of the plane.
The box, packed with doses of the Moderna vaccine, could be the solution to a pandemic that has killed millions and locked down borders for a year. Short is wary of moving it out of her sight.
Its placement is also contrary to Transport Canada cargo rules, though Short reiterates: this isn’t ordinary cargo.
Eventually, they find a spot for the box. Strapped to the floor two feet away, it’s only a shoulder check away from Short. She relents with a laugh.
“It’s alright. It’s just kind of my baby,” she explains.
“I mean, this is the whole reason we’re on this plane is what’s in this box right here,” she’ll explain later. “It was really drilled into us that like you can’t shake it. You can’t drop it. You can’t leave it unattended. It is like a baby basically. If I’m walking with a whole box of like, 100 doses, it’s like, okay, don’t fall. Don’t let this go flying.”
Short is the lead nurse for Team Togo, one of two crack teams composed of about 30 clinical and logistic staff tasked with delivering and administering the vaccine to the Yukon’s outer communities.