Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief Mark Hill says the COVID-19 vaccine currently being administered to health care workers across the province will be available to Six Nations residents but will not be mandatory.
“It ultimately comes down to personal choice,” said Chief Hill. “We want to advocate for this vaccine in the case of members wanting it. Ultimately it’s nothing that’s imposed or mandatory.”
As the first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Ontario last week, with a secretive shipment landing at Hamilton’s John C. Munroe International Airport on Sunday, it’s a matter of time before Indigenous communities start rolling out their vaccination campaigns.
It’s not known when Six Nations will receive its first batch of the vaccine or when local health care workers will be inoculated.
“It’s going to be very difficult to do the logistical aspects and planning,” said Wright.
Six Nations’ Emergency Control Group, made up of band staff and elected council members, will work on a vaccine administration plan, said Wright.
“We need the community to be aware that it will likely be several weeks before we have access to the vaccines. A community-based COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force team is working with all available information and engaging in a fulsome planning process that is reflective of rapidly evolving planning that is happening Federally and Provincially,” said SNGR in an emailed statement to TRT late Tuesday.
“As of today, timelines are unclear as to when the vaccines will be available for roll-out at the community level therefore Ohsweken Public Health is not aware of any Six Nations community members who are eligible, this early in the rollout. Ohsweken Public Health is already receiving requests from the community regarding how they can access the vaccine, but it is too early to direct them.”
Indigenous communities are expected to receive 40,000 of the initial 249,000 doses delivered to Canada, said SNGR Elected Councillor, Nathan Wright.
A provincial Covid vaccine task force with an Indigenous sub-committee will be handling the logistics of vaccine shipments to First Nation communities, Wright told SNGR’s General Council last Tuesday.
A number of health care workers in Toronto and Ottawa have already received the vaccine.
Hamilton is the next city where health care workers are set to be vaccinated.
It’s not known if any Six Nations health care workers or elders will receive the vaccine this week.
The vaccine must be stored at a frigid -70°C, Wright said after he and the elected Chief held a meeting with regional chiefs last week to discuss the vaccine rollout.
Premier Doug Ford is among the leaders calling on Ottawa to provide more clarity as officials work to develop a province-wide vaccination strategy.
Health Minister Christine Elliott has said Ontario will receive 1.6 million doses of the new vaccine from Pfizer and 800,000 doses from Moderna in early 2021, although federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said such details were still in the works.
Ford has named former general Rick Hillier, who served as chief of defence staff, to oversee the province’s vaccine rollout.
Nine others were named to the provincial vaccine task force on Friday, including medical experts, the province’s chief coroner, former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, and bioethicist Dr. Maxwell Smith.
The province had initially said it would develop its vaccine plan by year’s end, but earlier this week Ford said the province would be ready even if the vaccines arrive sooner.
He has urged Ottawa to provide detailed information on potential vaccine delivery.
“We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments,” Ford said.
– with CP files.