COVID-19 vaccination update: One in four Island citizens has been vaccinated

Manitoulin will have its very own ultra-cold freezer soon that will have the capability of storing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Shutterstock

MANITOULIN – As more COVID-19 vaccine doses arrive in Canada, Manitoulin has pulled ahead of the province and the health district, having seen more than 3,500 doses distributed locally as of this past Friday, March 19, according to figures shared with The Expositor.

Manitoulin Health Centre ran three mass vaccination clinics, on February 27, March 1 and March 10, delivering 527 doses to health care and other essential workers.

After those three sessions, non-Indigenous vaccination distribution has shifted to Manitoulin’s three family health teams (FHTs), Northeast, Assiginack and Central.

“We continue to lend support to (the FHT vaccination clinics) in terms of registration, maintenance and that sort of thing just to help them out as they get used to the protocol. Our intent is to continue to support and collaborate with them, in staffing or in any way,” the health centre’s president and CEO Lynn Foster told The Expositor, adding that the hospitals continue to run assessment centres and manage regular patient demand.

The family health teams were unable to provide vaccination figures to The Expositor by press deadline Monday as they were still in the midst of planning and executing clinics, but promised statistics soon.

Northeastern Manitoulin FHT executive director Judy Miller gave a conservative estimate that the FHTs had given at least 600 vaccinations, including to those in the 80-plus category through mass vaccination clinics held last week.

During the week of March 8, when vaccinations rapidly increased across the Island, Mnaamodzawin Health Services collaborated with Noojmowin Teg Health Centre to distribute 503 vaccines to First Nation individuals aged 55 and older in Aundeck Omni Kaning, Sheguiandah First Nation, Sheshegwaning, Whitefish River First Nation and Zhiibaahaasing. This past Saturday, Noojmowin Teg distributed an additional 77 shots.

M’Chigeeng, which is running its own vaccination campaign, gave out 685 total doses as of last week. It was expecting an additional 142 doses this past Monday, March 22, to begin vaccinating its adults aged 18 or older.

Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre vaccinated 693 community members and band employees on March 10, 11 and 13, including residents aged 16 and older. Vaccinations continued during the March 11 blackout because its system used a hybrid of both paper and electronic information.

Prior to the mass vaccination campaigns, all long-term care facilities on Manitoulin had the opportunity to vaccinate their residents and staff members who opted to get the shot. Those figures are not included in the above vaccination round-up.

Adding up all of the above figures as of Friday, March 19, The Expositor counts approximately 3,000 doses of vaccines for Manitoulin Island thus far. The official figure from that date from Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) stands at 3,594.

According to 2016 census data (which is arguably starting to fall out of date and will be refreshed in this year’s census), Manitoulin District’s population is 13,255. Using that figure along with the PSHD total, it appears that approximately one in four Manitoulin residents has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

This puts Manitoulin District far ahead of the average in the PHSD catchment area, which stands at just one in 10 residents having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, March 19.

Some of the factors driving this gap likely extend to demographics. Manitoulin District features a higher number of people deemed vulnerable during the pandemic.

Manitoulin District’s median age is 49.5 years old, compared to just 44.5 years old across the PHSD geographic area. In addition, median total income is nearly $10,000 lower on the Island; $26,724 versus $36,458 in the whole health district according to 2015 figures.

The Island also has a higher percentage of people who identify as Indigenous, 40.6 percent compared to 12.5 percent in the health unit.

Health workers, also in priority to receive the vaccine, made up eight percent of the labour force on Manitoulin, a nearly identical figure to that of the whole health catchment area.