COVID-19: Brant County Health Unit announces first vaccines while Six Nations still in-waiting as schools head toward reopening

OHSWEKEN — A planned reopening of Six Nations elementary schools is still on track for next month with no public information on when the COVID-19 vaccination will be available for Six Nations residents — despite First Nations being identified as a priority. Meanwhile, Brant County Health Unit announced they will begin administering first vaccinations next week.

An update from SNGREC shared plans for Six Nations Federal Schools re-opening on February 1 with plans to put students in two cohort groups on an alternating schedule of in-class learning and online, remote learning.

Last month, Kathleen Manderville, Director of Federal Schools shared the details of the Six Nations Schools 57-page reopening plan with the community in an update to Six Nations Elected Council, broadcast to the council’s Facebook page.

The plan outlines details for how students will report symptoms, what personal protective equipment staff and students will require and how public health officials will be engaged in monitoring for outbreaks and cases in the elementary school system.

A provincial lockdown imposed on December 26 put elementary and secondary students in Ontario schools on remote learning through to January 9 in Northern Ontario and January 23 in Southern Ontario.

Health officials across the province are urging elected leaders not to send students back into the classroom with COVID infections rising across the board.

The province logged 3,363 new cases on Saturday, up from Thursday’s record of 3,328. Yesterday, it recorded 2,964 new cases and 25 deaths.

SNGR is also experiencing an uptick of cases. On Monday, public health reported 8 new active cases of COVID-19 on Six Nations this week. Six new positive cases were confirmed over the weekend.

The community now sits at the red alert level — informing residents that community transmissions are widespread, prohibiting private gatherings and warning the community that local health officials and emergency responders have reached capacity.

To date there have been 113 cases of COVID-19 confirmed on Six Nations, 104 of those cases have resolved. One person has died.

Almost 500,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been delivered across Canada. A reported 40,000 of those were earmarked for reserves in Ontario.

The provincial government announced Tuesday that it will begin delivering COVID-19 vaccines via ORNGE air ambulances to 31 of Ontario’s fly-in reserves later this week. Brant County Health Unit announced Tuesday they will receive deliveries of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week and will being administering them immediately.

Despite First Nations being identified as a top priority for the province, no timeline has been disclosed by local, provincial or national leadership for when the vaccine will be delivered to Six Nations, how residents will be prioritized, who will qualify for a vaccination or plans on how Ohsweken Public Health is organizing to administer the vaccine.

Health Canada says indigenous communities are a first priority for vaccine delivery, however those in remote, northern First Nations communities will be given top priority because they have limited access to local medical facilities.

BC’s Tahltan Nation announced delivery of 600 Moderna vaccines last week for residents in Iskut, Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek. Those communities were enduring a massive outbreak last summer that prompted a travel ban for all non-residents, including band members. That travel ban is still in effect. Tahltan’s Central Government says the first 600 vaccines will only be made available to residents, excluding off-territory band members.

BC announced it’s immunization plans Monday, saying the vaccine will be made available to all First Nations communities, indigenous elders and seniors over the age of 65 in February. To date, about 27,000 people in BC have been vaccinated.

As of January 4, Indigenous Services Canada says there are 3290 active cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves — 262 cases in Ontario.

There have been a total of 9392 on-reserve cases of coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

– with CP files

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