Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler stressed the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 after his mother was the first resident to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at the William A. George Extended Care Facility in Sioux Lookout.
“This is my mom — the one who has held me and kept me safe,” Fiddler says in a Jan. 7 tweet. “And she is still looking out for me and for all of us in our community by being one of the first in NAN (Nishnawbe Aski Nation) to roll up her sleeve and get vaccinated against COVID-19. This is how we will end this pandemic.”
Eunice Fiddler received the Health Canada-approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 7. The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) stated that the William A. George Extended Care Facility residents and front-line staff would be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations, and the SLMHC chronic care patients and hospital staff would also receive the COVID-19 vaccinations in the days ahead.
“We are grateful to be the first rural and northern community hospital to receive the Moderna vaccine,” says Heather Lee, president and CEO of SLMHC. “We are working with the Ministry of Health to plan the rollout of the vaccine at SLMHC and support our health care partners as they work to provide the vaccine to those identified in this first phase. We are continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners in health, including Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) and the Northwestern Health Unit, in our advocacy for continued implementation of the vaccination plan.”
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was approved on Dec. 23 by Health Canada for people 18-years-old and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved on Dec. 9.
“We are very pleased to have our staff and residents prioritized to receive the vaccine during this phase,” says Cynthia Dwyer, administrator at William A. George Extended Care Facility. “This vaccination adds a level of protection in our continued efforts to protect our residents, patients, staff and physicians. We also appreciate that with this Moderna vaccine we will be able to administer the vaccine to our residents in the comfort of their home. This has allowed this process to be done in a way that keeps them safe and comfortable.”
Greg Rickford, minister of Indigenous Affairs and minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, says the administration of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Sioux Lookout is an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19.
“Our government continues to ensure that the vaccine rollout reaches every corner of our province to protect frontline workers, long-term care residents and remote Indigenous communities as quickly as possible,” Rickford says. “We continue to work closely with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and other Indigenous partners to ensure an efficient and culturally appropriate vaccine rollout to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.”
Dr. John Guilfoyle, public health physician at SLFNHA, says SLFNHA is planning to begin vaccinations in the communities in February once the people doing the vaccinations are vaccinated for COVID-19.
“We’re looking forward to the vaccine being rolled out,” Guilfoyle says during a Jan. 5 phone interview. “It certainly seems to be the best way to get to what we call herd immunity, which is between 70 and 90 per cent of the community becoming immune, and that means that the virus can’t any longer spread. So that would be great because that would mean we could stop the restrictions and people could get back to getting access to the care they need.
People have not been getting the care they might have gotten had there been no COVID-19.”
Guilfoyle says there were 19 cases of COVID-19 in the SLFNHA communities as of Jan. 5.
“They’re all resolved and we’ve had no in-community transmission in any of our communities,” Guilfoyle says. “Most of the cases were related to travel into the community and we’ve managed to with case management and contact tracing to prevent further spread.”
Information about Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination program is posted online at: covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-vaccines-ontario.