By Victoria Gray
Six Nations band members, both on and off-reserve, are not choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine and some aren’t showing up for their second dose.
Sara Smith, Six Nations Public Health epidemiologist gave a presentation on vaccination coverage of band members both on and off-reserve at the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) general council meeting on May 25.
She told councillors that only 30 per cent (3,780) of the approximately 12,000 residents living in Six Nations have had at least on dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about 31 per cent (8,651) of Six Nations members living off-reserve have gotten a vaccine.
“The main reasons (responses from survey) people used as to why they were not getting the vaccine were, side effects, wanting to wait and see what happens to others and they believe the vaccine was rushed and there’s not enough testing to prove it’s safe or effective,” Smith said.
Her data on vaccination coverage is coming from the Six Nations vaccination clinic and for those who got a vaccine anywhere else in the province ISC is giving the data to Ohsweken Public Health to help. Smith said she has no way of getting the vaccination records for members who were vaccinated in another province or in the United States.
The age groups that have had a large uptake in vaccination are those aged 65 to 84 with 42 per cent of band members vaccinated, but only 5 per cent of those 85 and up have gotten the vaccine.
17 per cent of young adults aged 12 to 19 have gotten a vaccination; 22 per cent of people aged 20 to 39 and 31 per cent of people between the ages of 40 and 64 have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Lori Davis-Hill director of health services said Six Nation will receive a limited number of Pfizer vaccinations for young adults from 12 to 17 in the first week of June and will offer those at the Six Nations Vaccination clinic when they arrive. Pfizer is the only vaccine currently approved for youth.
“We’ll open registration in the coming days, but doses are limited,” she said.
Smith said the demand for vaccines is dwindling. On April 15 when the vaccination clinic opened 202 people were vaccinated, but the numbers have only dropped since then. During the Six Nations vaccination blitz from May 1 to 15 the clinic operated, on average, at 13 per cent capacity. The highest number of people to use the clinic in a single day during the blitz was 54 on May 7.
SNEC opened the clinic to walk-in appointments on May 1 and by the end of the blitz a total of 83 people had taken advantage of the walk-in appointment.
“Most of those were people who had missed their second dose appointment,” Smith said.
Smith also said this isn’t for lack of trying to educate people and to encourage them to make an informed decision.
Staff held eight webinars, three for the public; per-registered Zoom sessions, Facebook Live events, two radio shows, pod casts, surveys, advertisements and social media posts.
The first webinar on Facebook reached 1,000 people; it got 240 post clicks and had 70 reactions, comments and shares. The problem is most people only viewed the webinar for about one minute.
“I suggest making several one minute video clips for social media,” Smith said.
Of those who attended the webinars 52 per cent of people said they learned a lot, 73 per cent of those who attended already had their first dose and were attending to get information to try to convince family and friends to get it. 30 per cent of those who responded said they intended to get the vaccine after the webinar, while 67 per cent said they still weren’t sure.
Smith recommended to councillors that they opt to increase access to priority populations like the elderly by starting in-home vaccinations; continue the vaccine confidence strategies, but stop the Facebook Live sessions and replace them with 30 second to one minute video clips. She also suggested sharing community members’ experience getting their vaccination because 98 per cent of people who attended the clinic were pleased with their experience, while 87 per cent were satisfied with their wait times.
They also hope to encourage employers to help give out vaccine information and to expand their education strategy as the pandemic progresses.
By Victoria Gray