Bear Island has successful vaccination clinic

·3 min read

By Jamie Mountain

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

BEAR ISLAND – Residents of Bear Island were some of the latest to receive the first round of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Temagami First Nation (TFN), in partnership with the Timiskaming Health Unit, held a one-day only vaccination clinic on March 2 at the Minowaabandan-gamiing Maawanjohidiwining (Lakeview Gathering Place) in the Gathering Hall.

“It went very well. We scheduled to start at 10 (a.m.) and it went until 5:30 (p.m.) and we vaccinated 220 people,” said Temagami First Nation pandemic coordinator Rachel McKee.

Only those 18 and older were able to book an appointment to receive the vaccine.

In order for TFN staff to determine the amount of vaccine required for the community, and to maintain COVID-19 protocols, appointments were required for residents to take part in the clinic.

A TFN staff person then contacted the residents February 23 to 25 to book the appointments.

“It was for those 18-plus and essential workers and the community of Bear Island,” said McKee in a telephone interview.

“Also we included the Temagami First Nation members who live in the town of Temagami and also there are some Temagami First Nation members that have places on the lake and we included them as well.”

Those who attended the vaccination clinic were asked to bring their health card/photo ID and a completed COVID-19 screening and consent form to their appointment.

As well, in preparation for the vaccine, residents were asked to speak with their health care provider to see if the Moderna vaccine was right for them.


Virginia McKenzie, a justice services coordinator for TFN, was the first person to receive the vaccine in the community.

“The Timiskaming Health Unit … brought their staff here to administer the vaccine and we also had Dr. (Steve) Goddard here as well,” explained McKee.

“He’s a doctor in Temagami. He has the Temagami Family Health Team there and a lot of community members on Bear Island have him as their doctor, so he was here as well.”

To prevent wastage of vaccine in open vials, some clinic staff also received their first vaccine dose, the health unit said in a media release.

It says ethical guidelines were used to prioritize which staff were offered a vaccine.

“Vaccinated individuals will receive their second dose of the Moderna vaccine following provincial guidance,” said the THU.

Dr. Glenn Corneil, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the health unit, said that they were “pleased” that TFN residents have received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine.

“TFN residents on Bear Island may have delays to accessing services, including health care, due to the remoteness of their community, and immunizations are an important step towards protection from COVID-19,” he said in the media release.

The health unit says it has “the responsibility for the local implementation” of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

“The Government of Ontario is leading the overall provincial COVID-19 immunization strategy and has identified who will get the vaccine first. As per ministry guidelines, the next groups scheduled to be vaccinated between this month and early April are: alternate level of care patients in hospitals; highest priority health care workers; residents, staff, and caregivers in retirement homes and other care settings for seniors (for example, assisted living); other priority health care workers; all other on- and off-reserve Indigenous adults; adults 80 years of age and older; and adult chronic home care clients.”

McKee said that a second dosage of the Moderna vaccine will be available on March 30, although there won’t be another clinic held on Bear Island “as far as I know.”

Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker