Leaders in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation say vaccine hesitancy and low case counts are keeping people away from a community immunization clinic but they’re urging members to still get vaccinated.
“It’s now an opportunity for people to do their part and get vaccinated so this thing will end, so we can get back to normalcy in our lives,” said NCN chief Marcel Moody.
The mass vaccination clinic was set up on March 25th at the community’s recreation complex with the help of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Nearly 1600 doses of the Moderna vaccine are ready for community members in NCN but only 230 doses were administered by last Friday.
Moody estimates there are 2300 adults on-reserve who are eligible to get the vaccine but he worries that members are hesitant about it. He’s also concerned about the two week period they have to get the job done.
“We only have two weeks to try and get as many done in a two week period,” said Moody, who has heard from people who are worried about how fast vaccines were developed.
He believes strict protocols, including entry checkpoints, curfews, and total lockdowns since the pandemic began have led to low-case counts and those low numbers have led people to believe they don’t need to get the vaccine.
“It’s one of the first times in history that we’re first in line for something that’s good. And it’s a life saving tool that we have access to right now.”
MacKinnon is the head of the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, and leads Clinical Operations for Manitoba’s First Nation’s COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team.
MacKinnon said the Moderna vaccine is 94 to 95% effective and is “very safe.”
“This past year hasn’t been normal,” she added. “The vaccine is another tool we can use to come together again and see our families.”
Making doses available to off-reserve members
Moody says they will welcome off-reserve members, who live in places like Thompson and Winnipeg, to get their vaccine in NCN, too.
“If people are willing to come up and get the vaccine tomorrow, we’ll allow that to happen. We’re not going to stop people from getting the vaccine,” said Moody.
He said people will have to sign consent forms, and they will be met at the community check-stop, where they will be driven into the community to get their shots, and then will be escorted back out, to discourage any visiting.
“I would hope that people start rolling in today and tomorrow and all week this week, maybe extend [the mass-immunization clinic] a few more days and the following week. But our goal is to try and get 1590 vaccines into people’s arms, any way we can,” said Moody.
Chief Moody and the band’s councillors all received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine last week. To encourage people to do the same , they’re offering incentives like a draw for $500 daily cash prizes for adults who get their shot during the mass clinic.
The immunization clinic in NCN is expected to run till Thursday, with a possibility of it being extended by a week.