M’CHIGEENG – M’Chigeeng First Nation is initiating its vaccine rollout plan for band members and community members who are age 55 and older this week.
“We are hosting our first mass vaccination immunization clinic this Wednesday and Thursday for all residents aged 55 and up, at the community complex,” stated M’Chigeeng Chief Linda Debassige this past Tuesday. She noted that the first vaccines had already been completed for elders of the Wellness Centre and Elders’ Lodge. They received the Moderna vaccines earlier this year.
“This round of vaccinations will see residents 55 years of age and older receiving the Pfizer vaccinations,” said Chief Debassige. “At last count, I understand that Public Health (Sudbury and Districts) was providing 312 doses for the vaccine clinic (being put on by M’Chigeeng Health Services) tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday of this week.”
“We understand they will increase the amount of the Moderna vaccines in the coming week, and once they have been allocated we will continue to roll out the vaccines,” continued Chief Debassige.
Earlier this year Chief Debassige was asked to sit at the First Nation COVID-19 Vaccination Table for the province. She pointed out that Ontario’s minister of Northern development and mines, Greg Rickford, and Roseanne Archibald, Assembly of First Nations Ontario regional chief, are co-chairs of the table. They acknowledged the efforts of Shawn Batise, deputy minister of Indigenous Affairs, for his support.
“This is the only table across Canada that has been dedicated to First Nations vaccination rollout,” said Chief Debassige. “It is supported by the premier’s office. The table works to inform the processes on First Nations reserve vaccination distribution. Along with public health they are a key table that helps with the rollout efficiency of the vaccines.”
“They encouraged First Nations rollout with their plans for the vaccinations and sent them to the minister. From there, directions from public health units help guide them through the process,” continued Chief Debassige. “Because of underlying health conditions in Indigenous populations, it is important to ensure First Nations have priority within the vaccination rollout.”
M’Chigeeng First Nation submitted its rollout plan, with Chief Debassie providing community health services with needed guidance. “Kim Aelick and Debbie Debassige lead the mass data effort in the community,” said Chief Debassige. “We focused on everyone within the boundary of the community and non-members as well as the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service and the physiotherapy clinic run by Derek Debassige to best determine how many we need and how we can ensure health care workers have the additional supports and information to make their decisions.”
“Our priority is those aged 55 and up in this round of vaccinations and some of the essential health care workers. When we receive additional doses in the community, these (remaining health care workers) will be completed along with the rest of the community members,” said Chief Debassige.
Chief Debassige was asked to join the First Nation Vaccination Table in early January in recognition of the efforts of M’Chigeeng to operate mass clinics. “I’m so proud that such a big community effort has been provided to get to this point, from our foot soldiers who went door-to-door to get information and the people who made them feel welcome and informed.” She pointed out doctors Maurianne Reade and Mike Bedard had reviewed the M’Chigeeng plan and indicated their utmost confidence in the document.
“I would also like to highlight that we advocated for more from public health, who had only one person to fill syringes for the vaccination clinic,” said Chief Debassige. Training has been provided to nursing staff in M’Chigeeng’s Health Centre on filling syringes for the vaccinations.
Chief Debassige explained there will be several stations set up at the clinic being held in the community complex. The first stop at the clinic will be for people to ensure those with appointments are on the vaccination list; from there they’ll move to the screening section where consent forms will be signed. In a third area in the complex, there will be five immunization booths set up for vaccine inoculations. Those who have been vaccinated will then sit in the main part of the complex (while physically distancing from others, of course) where they will be observed by health staff for 15 minutes, or 30 minutes for those who have pre-existing health conditions. Patients who are receiving the vaccinations will enter the complex from one door and leave through a separate exit to ensure safe physical distancing.
“All of Manitoulin has come together in a collaborative effort, with (Manitoulin Health Centre) leadership at the committee level, chiefs and municipal leaders and representatives working together against the pandemic,” added Chief Debassige. “I am proud of our community rollout plan. We are the first community on the Island that will be holding this type of mass vaccination clinic.”