Nurses at Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation administered 160 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, the first day of the community’s mass vaccination clinic, despite the weather and vaccine hesitancy stacked against them.
The community 177 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg anticipated a large turnout after inviting all members to come get the Moderna vaccine, in hopes of vaccinating at least 70 per cent of members.
A tent was rented but due to blowing snow and high winds, the clinic was forced to move into the community complex.
Elissa Roulette, a member and executive assistant for Sandy Bay Child and Family Services, got her first dose.
“I’m happy that we got the opportunity in our community to get a vaccine,” she said.
She said she felt it was important to be an example for others on the first day of the mass clinic.
“I know there’s a lot of people who are apprehensive about it,” she said.
“If I do my part and encourage the other people around me to do theirs as well, we can protect those that are apprehensive about it.”
3 deaths due to COVID-19
As of Feb. 26, there have been three community member deaths due to complications from COVID-19, according to the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation.
Virginia Lukianchuk, assistant director of health for Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation and a member, said vaccinations are being offered to all members no matter where they live, any First Nations person with a status number who wishes to come, anyone in the area who meets provincial guidelines, the RCMP and those who provide emergency services to the community, and non-members who work in the community.
“If they work in Sandy Bay, they’re eligible and that’s a decision we made at the band level,” she said.
“We need to have our staff immunized; if we have kids going to school and the teachers aren’t immunized, what if they bring that disease in?”
It’s not the first vaccination clinic in the community; a small one was held earlier this year at Isaac Beaulieu Memorial School where at least 200 doses were given to elders.
‘We believe in kinship’
Sandy Bay also hosts a provincial COVID-19 testing site for anyone in the surrounding area. The community has been doing both regular and rapid testing since the summer and reports back to the southern health region of Manitoba.
“We believe in kinship so we have really strong ties with our surrounding communities,” said Lukianchuk.
“They access our services . . . all our members access their services as well.”
Second doses of the Moderna vaccine will be offered by Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation based on availability in Canada.