WIIKWEMKOONG – The residents and staff of Wikwemikong Nursing Home (WNH) have all received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and no serious side effects or concerns have been reported by either.
“Some people had sore arms for a couple of days but those had pretty much all disappeared by Friday,” said WNH administrator Cheryl Osawabine-Peltier.
Donald ‘Scotty’ Fisher (Odjig), a Second World War and Korean War veteran who served in the First Canadian Airborne Battalion overseas, was the first resident up on the firing line to get the vaccine. Mr. Odjig is a popular Wiikwemkoong elder who takes pride in his fluent Anishinaabemowin and his role as a knowledge keeper for Wiikwemkoong. A long-time runner, Mr. Odjig attributes his still-vibrant health and longevity to maintaining a healthy diet, exercise and the support of family, friends and community members.
“Not bad,” said Mr. Odjig of his experience in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It was a little painful at first, but I am well satisfied. I was in the army and you got lots of shots there, so I am used to that,” he laughed. “It was nice that they put up a little video of us getting our shots.”
WNH personal support worker Mike Jon Peltier was one of the staff who were looking forward to getting the vaccine. He reported, “It was okay, just like the flu shot. The arm was a bit sore for 24 hours but no other side effects. I was happy to get the vaccine.”
“It was not too bad,” agreed WNH resident James (Jett) Francis, formerly of Little Current (Wewebejiwun), or as Mr. Francis puts it, the Little Current First Nation). “Some people got a sore arm for a couple of days, but I was okay. One lady here is 99 and she got vaccinated, it was nothing to worry about.”
In fact, Mr. Francis said that he and other residents eagerly awaited the shot. “We were waiting for it,” he said. “We heard we were going to be getting it, but we didn’t know exactly when until the day before.”
Mr. Francis said that he was eager for things to get back to a semblance of normal. “I haven’t been out to Little Current much, how are things down there? I hear it’s pretty quiet, pretty quiet here too,” he laughed.
Although the nursing home staff work hard at keeping the residents entertained, Mr. Francis joked that he is looking forward to “getting out of solitary.”
Ms. Osawabine-Peltier confirmed that 132 doses of the vaccine were administered last Wednesday. “That includes all of the residents and staff, everyone.” There were some shots left over, so Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier assisted in finding three vulnerable elders in the community who also received the vaccine. “We also did six nurses at the health centre,” she said, “so nothing went to waste.”
Ms. Osawabine-Peltier said that there was some worry at the start with a small number of staff who had concerns about what they had heard about the vaccine through social media. “In the end, they had all of their questions answered and every single one of the staff came forward to get the shot.”
The COVID-19 vaccines in use require two doses a few weeks apart to provide maximum protection, but Ms. Osawabine-Peltier said WNH had not yet received information from Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) as to when the second doses would arrive. “I am pretty sure that in four weeks we will get to do it all over again,” she laughed.
The process for receiving the vaccines involved a fair bit of data-gathering before the dosages arrived. “There was a template to fill out,” said Ms. Osawabine-Peltier, “how many staff, how many essential workers, the number of PSWs. It was pretty thorough.”
All of the staff and residents interviewed by The Expositor said that they were anxious to put the COVID-19 and its restrictions behind them and return to something closer to normal. “This has been hard on both our residents and our staff,” admitted the administrator. Everyone is looking forward to being able to hug family and friends again.
Nastassia McNair, program manager for school health, vaccine preventable diseases and COVID prevention with PHSD said that the status of vaccine distribution is “evolving very rapidly.” She indicated on Friday, January 15 that PHSD is “planning and hoping to have all area long-term care facilities vaccinated by the end of January. We recognize that getting the vaccine in arm of persons in long-term care is very important.” She indicated that the health unit had not yet received a clear information on the timing, but plans were in place to finish the second round of vaccinations in four weeks.