By Victoria Gray
SIX NATIOSN OF THE GRAND RIVER-Six Nations front line heath care workers, emergency service workers and high risk community members can preregister for a COVID-19 vaccine soon as part of the community’s vaccine rollout plan.
Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) approved a vaccine matrix for the community with four phases for the vaccine rollout at a special council meeting on February, 19.
Zach Miller Administrative Director at Six Nations Family Health Team at Six Nations Health Services said the matrix was created very organically and leaves room for people to move into different segments due to their own personal medical conditions, but the most important thing for the community to take away from the discussion is that people, vaccinated or not, must still adhere to public health guidelines including, continuing to social distance and wear a mask.
“The vaccine’s main purpose is to limit the possibility of having severe outcomes,” he said. “It’s not meant to slow it, even after you receive a vaccine you still have to take precautions. It’s so we don’t have a severe outcome if you do come into contact with the virus… We need to ensure we keep those precautions at this point.”
The first phase of the matrix, vaccinating all residents in long-term care facilities is already complete. All staff and residents, who consented to a COVID-19 vaccine were given their first dose in late January.
Lacey VanEvery, acting public health head nurse at Ohsweken (Gane Yohs) Health Centre said vaccines are limited throughout the country and they are trickling in, but as soon as they start to get a steady stream of them, the vaccination process will go much faster. The provincial objective is to have everyone vaccinated by September.
“We are working diligently to make sure we have everything in place when they (vaccinations) start coming in to rollout the vaccine. We are utilizing help within community, the emergency medical services have been very supportive helping with vaccination roll out,” she said.
The next phase includes those with lower risk of severe health outcomes if they contract the virus, but there is less control over risk of exposure to the virus due to occupational/environmental hazards. Those people include front line workers in close contact with the public, unable to work from home and have limited control over risk of exposure, which can include, but is not limited to, first responders, frontline healthcare workers, home care health workers and those working in congregate care settings (shelters/group homes).
The third group includes people who are higher risk for severe outcomes due to age and health conditions, but can easily mitigate risk by taking public health precautions like staying home, wearing a mask, washing hands often, etc. This groups includes people over the age of 60 or who are immunocompromised and receive home care.
The fourth and final group is for those with a lower risk of a severe outcome who can easily mitigate their risks by taking public health precautions. This group includes the general public and hose who can easily work from home.
Dr. Maurica Maher, an epidemiologist who works with Indigenous Services Canada said the vaccine is only for those over the age of 18.
Miller said an online preregistration sign-up systems for vaccinations would be available soon as would the framework fro the vaccine rollout.
A community member watching on Facebook, along with 167 other people asked why teachers were not mentioned as a priority, Miller said they were working from home now and would be in the fourth phase, but if they went back to school they would be in the second phase.
Councillor Wendy Johnson responded with a question of her own, some teachers and others providing services in the community are not community members, would they get a vaccination from Six Nations? Would those people factor into Six Nations allotment of vaccines? Would that mean non-community members were vaccinated before community members?
“We’re trying to be as inclusive as we can be,” Miller said.
Councillor Nathan Wright, who sits on a provincial vaccine First Nations sub-committee said it’s an issue he has brought up provincially, but has not heard an answer.
Councillors Hazel Johnson and Audrey Powless-Bomberry said they thought people should be vaccinated if they are giving services to the community.
“This is probably an issue nobody thought of to date. I think that people who come in from off-reserve to work here, their community probably would have a plan on how to dole out vaccinations. I agree with Audrey if they are on-reserve and we’re protecting our children for sure. We should ensure they have vaccinations for the positions they hold,” Johnson said.
Maher said it’s probably a discussion many communities are having and it is a very challenging time with many unknowns. She also suggested surrounding communities may have a similar vaccination schedules for those frontline workers.
“I would just offer that other communities may be having this debate to provide frontline or close contact service with vaccinations. Nathen talked about a task force with the province, this could be a topic for discussion to learn how other communities are approaching this issue. They may not be residents, but are still providing, and to make sure they are not going to bring COVID-19 into the community through lack of vaccination,” she said.
Johnson said it’s still concerning.
“We have large number of (people coming in) if they get a vaccine out of our doses, witch are limited, I do have a concern with that, before our community members (get a vaccine),” she said.