Six Nations’ Covid-19 vaccine rollout is in full swing after receiving a large shipment of doses last Friday.
By the end of the week, about 1,000 Six Nations members are expected to have been vaccinated or received their first dose since a vaccine was first announced in December 2020.
While the country faces a Covid-19 vaccine shortage, First Nations communities are receiving priority shipments because of the population’s pre-existing health conditions and vulnerability to Covid complications, said Six Nations Paramedic Supervisor Derek Wharrie, who is overseeing the Covid vaccine clinic at Six Nations.
About 200 people came through the doors of the Covid vaccine clinic at Emily C. General Elementary School Tuesday with another 300 expected to receive their shots on Thursday.
The clinic serves seven people every eight minutes.
“We’re very regimented on our time,” said Wharrie. “Nobody comes in without an appointment for everybody’s safety.”
Clients are screened for Covid symptoms at the entrance to the school and are required to wear a face covering before proceeding to the gym for their shot.
A doctor is on site to answer any questions people have about the vaccine and the site is fully equipped with the staff and equipment needed in case of any adverse reactions to the vaccine.
So far, there has been one adverse reaction since the vaccine rollout began on Mar. 2, said Wharrie, but the person recovered without complications, he said.
“We have the capability of starting treatment here,” he said.
Six Nations received a shipment of 6,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Friday, moving Six Nations full steam ahead in its Covid-19 vaccination rollout.
“We’re still ramping up,” said Wharrie, adding that a call centre manned by five people will be established this week to book vaccine appointments.
Six Nations nurses and paramedics are administering the vaccine at six separated vaccination “pods” inside the gym at Emily C. General.
Clients receive two doses of the vaccine, with the second dose delivered 28 days after the first.
Immunity starts a few days after first dose and goes up further after second dose, said Wharrie.
“That second booster shot brings it up. It’s important to get that first vaccine to as many people as we can because there is a significant efficacy around that.”
There are about 17,000 people on Six Nations and Wharrie says the Brant County Health Unit has promised enough doses for the whole community.
“Essentially we have enough for as many as want it,” said Wharrie.
The distribution matrix approved by council last month prioritizing seniors and those with health conditions will no longer be used since there is enough vaccine for the whole population.
Up until last weekend , the community only had access to a few doses.
“Finally, that mass supply has come through,” said Wharrie.
The BCHU is storing the frozen vaccine for Six Nations, he said. Doses are shipped here and stored at Six Nations Public Health, where, once thawed, last 30 days. Once the vial is punctured, the vaccine is good for six hours, said Wharrie.
After receiving the shot, staff ovbserve clients for 15 minutes to watch for adverse reactions before they exit the gym and book their second appointment.
Physical distancing and other safety measures are observed throughout.
“Safety is of utmost importance.”
Wharrie said the usual side effects of the vaccine include soreness in the arm and mild cold symptoms.
The second round of doses will be administered beginning Mar. 30.
Prior to Tuesday, 550 Six Nations people were vaccinated, with 200 expected on Tuesday and 300 expected on Thursday.
Wharrie said people are nervous when they first come in for their shot but by the time they’ve gone through the process and waited the 15 minutes, “they’re very relieved. They’re impressed with the process and feel very safe.”