Elders and health care workers first to receive Covid-19 vaccine

SIX NATIONS — Six Nations has been busy these past two weeks, vaccinating frontline workers and its most vulnerable residents, less than two months since the world heralded the arrival of the first Covid-19 vaccine.

Six Nations Health Services staff and elders are almost finished receiving the Covid-19 vaccine before a widespread rollout of the vaccine for the whole community occurs.

That is dependent on when the next shipment comes in, said Health Services Director Lori Davis-Hill.

Two vaccines are currently being administered on the territory: one made by Pfizer (the first vaccine approved by Health Canada) and the other one made by Moderna.

The first doses of the Moderna vaccine have been completed for residents at Iroquois Lodge who wish to be vaccinated, said Davis-Hill. Iroquois Lodge is a long-term care home on Six Nations.

Iroquois lodge staff received the Pfizer vaccine earlier in January and have also completed the first round of the two-dose vaccination process. The second doses are scheduled for 21 days after the first dose for those who received the Moderna vaccine, and 28 days after the first dose for those who received the Pfizer vaccine, she said.

“It needs to be highlighted that vaccination is to prevent serious illness from the virus – measures to prevent transmission are still required,” said Davis-Hill.

Frontline workers and elders were prioritized to receive the vaccine.

Consent has played a role in all vaccinations to date.

Davis-Hill said residents’ family members and primary caregivers provided consent on behalf of residents who do not have the capacity to consent.

And not all Iroquois Lodge staff consented to the vaccine, she said.

“Provincial guidelines have not made this mandatory for healthcare workers, although those who want the vaccine were granted priority due to the nature of their job, and the vulnerable populations they provide medical care for.”

The next vaccination plan is geared towards the Jay Silverheels Complex (JSC, which also houses elders), with about 20 requested doses for staff and residents.

Six Nations Paramedics plan to help administer this vaccine to JSC residents said Davis-Hill.

But despite the quick rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine at Iroquois Lodge, tight safety measures meant to control the spread of the virus in the lodge remain in place.

“Vaccination does not impact any of the current safety precautions at the lodge,” said Davis-Hill. “There is no change in restrictions whether or not staff or residents have been vaccinated. Vaccination has been shown to protect the individual from a serious illness from the virus 95 percent of the time.  All public health precautions will still need to be maintained until a sufficient level of immunity is achieved in the broader community.  There is ongoing research to determine the vaccine effectiveness on the transmission of the virus, but nothing has been released yet.  We still need to ensure we are protecting our elders, even though they are vaccinated.”

Covid-19 has ravaged long-term care homes across the province, resulting in thousands of deaths. Iroquois Lodge has been virus-free since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Protecting our Elders and most vulnerable has been the goal since day one,” said Davis-Hill. “We are happy to continue fulfilling this goal by ensuring our Elders at our Long Term Care complexes are vaccinated first, should they choose. We are looking to vaccinate the larger Elder and vulnerable population in the coming weeks.”

Six Nations health care workers have travelled to hospitals in Hamilton to receive the Pfizer since it requires cold storage before being administered.

The Moderna vaccine is being transported to the Six Nations community and is being administered by community staff that has received vaccine administering training from Indigenous Services Canada.

This includes the staff at Iroquois Lodge, Ohsweken Public Health, and the Six Nations Paramedics.

Six Nations is currently waiting for more Moderna vaccination doses to be received within the community.

“We are still working through confirming the priority list and is expected to be released next week,” said Davis-Hill.

Health Services still has to complete vaccinations for elders and health care workers before it is offered to the broader community, she said.

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