Elsipogtog First Nation receives COVID-19 vaccines

·2 min read

The health centre at Elsipogtog First Nation vaccinated more than 1,100 community members against COVID-19 this week.

“When I first heard the news [that the community would be receiving the vaccine], I actually cried,” said Band Coun. Jonathan Augustine, noting the health department told the band council a few weeks ago, and the news was shared with the community shortly after.

Augustine said community members were sent consent forms late last month, and received appointment times at the Elsipogtog Health & Wellness Centre beginning Monday and running until Thursday. The vaccine is also available to service providers to the community, he said.

Augustine received his first dose on Monday, and will receive a second dose in April.

The vaccinations will allow the community to move forward, he said.

In videos and posts to the health centre's Facebook page, community leaders announced 1,144 people were vaccinated in Elsipogtog this week. The community will hold a second vaccine clinic later in the month to vaccinate more people and are encouraging community members who have not yet done so to hand in consent forms.

Elsipogtog has had a check-point on the road leading into the community for most of the pandemic, closing it to most non-residents. While they will still have to follow COVID-19 guidelines and future plans for the check-point have not yet been discussed, the vaccine is a step toward the end of the pandemic and all that comes with it, Augustine said.

Some community members are choosing not to get the vaccine, he said, describing it as a minority. It mostly comes from a general distrust of things that come from government, he said, noting while not all things people are believing are accurate, the choice to be vaccinated or not is theirs.

The provincial government prioritized anyone 16 and older in First Nations communities for the vaccine, based on recommendations from Canadian health experts who noted that Indigenous communities are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Other First Nations in New Brunswick were also getting their vaccinations this week, including those in Tobique and St. Mary’s.

Cheryl Simon, director of administration for Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., a not-for-profit organization representing the nine Mi'kmaq communities across New Brunswick, said member "communities will be holding clinics for the first doses over the next few weeks and will likely be completely finished with the second doses by the end of June.”

Most communities are not announcing details of their clinics publicly out of concern their operations could be disrupted by doing so, said Simon.

Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal