Wiky Nursing Home residents and staff the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine in public health unit

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WIIKWEMKOONG – Chief and Council of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories told The Expositor that vaccinations will be made available this week for staff and residents of Wikwemikong Nursing Home (WNH). The long-term care (LTC) facility will be the first to get the vaccine in the Sudbury-Manitoulin District.

Ogimaa Duke Peltier told The Expositor that WNH has received 105 doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough for each resident and staff member of the LTC home.

In a statement Monday, Ogimaa Peltier said, “On behalf of council, I am pleased to report that the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be arriving this week and is designated for our nursing home residents and staff. We are relieved to be able to provide our most vulnerable with the vaccination. Wiikwemkoong has been diligent in taking all the measures possible to keep our citizens and community free from the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to practice all the recommendations from health officials and our pandemic team.”

“I am thrilled to see vaccine getting into the arms of the most vulnerable people in our area and those who care for them,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD). “Chief Peltier and the staff of the Wikwemikong Nursing Home are champions and PHSD has been proud to support them in this historic moment.” 

“Vaccines are a critical tool in our fight against COVID-19,” added Dr. Sutcliffe. “I look forward to our continued collaboration for a safe, effective and efficient rollout of the vaccine to protect against COVID-19.” 

Ogimaa Peltier said Wiikwemkoong expected its nursing home to be among the first to see the vaccine in the PHSD catchment area as the community has been working tirelessly behind the scenes, lobbying on behalf of its most vulnerable residents.

“The elders living there are our knowledge keepers, our language keepers,” he added, noting that the pandemic has made it incredibly difficult for these important members of the community to pass this knowledge on to the younger generation.

On December 23, 2020, Health Canada authorized the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in individuals 18 and older with some exceptions. Its safety and effectiveness in people younger than 18 years of age have not yet been established.

“It’s definitely a start,” Ogimaa Peltier said. “The sooner we get started the quicker we can see that light at the end of the tunnel.”

The ogimaa said he would continue to press the provincial and federal governments for a more robust vaccination program for his community as soon as doses of the vaccine are made available.

About the Moderna vaccine

The Moderna vaccine is an mRNA vaccine which means that the vaccine teaches cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response. These proteins are called ‘spike proteins.’ Once made, spike proteins are recognized by the immune system as foreign and a body’s system starts to create antibodies to clear out this foreign material. These antibodies help fight the infection if the actual virus does enter the body in the future.

Like many vaccines, the Moderna vaccine is given by an injection into the muscle of the arm. For the vaccine to work best, two doses are administered: the first single dose and then a second dose one month later.

Based on studies to date, the Moderna vaccine was 94.1 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 beginning two weeks after the second dose. This means that people may not be fully protected against COVID-19 until at least 14 days after the second dose.

Like any other vaccine or medication, there are potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. Based on evidence collected in clinical trials, the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are very similar to those associated with the influenza vaccine. The most common side effects include: pain at the injection site; redness and swelling at the injection site; headache; feeling tired; muscle or joint pain; and fever or chills. Serious side effects are rare.

While the Moderna vaccine needs to be frozen for storage, it can be kept at “regular” freezer temperatures as compared with the ultra-low-temperature Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

Ogimaa Peltier echoed Dr. Sutcliffe’s comment, stating Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories “believes that immunization against the virus is one important way to protect its community from COVID-19 and will be encouraging everyone to get the vaccine as it becomes available.”