SIOUX LOOKOUT, Ont. — As medical interpreter Tom Chapman received his COVID-19 vaccination on Thursday, 85-year-old patient Eunice Fiddler told him in Ojicree: "Don't cry."
Fiddler was the first person at the William A. George long-term care home in Sioux Lookout, Ont., to receive a dose of the Moderna vaccine. All of her fellow residents at the 20-bed facility and its staff — including Chapman — were also vaccinated.
Heather Lee, president and CEO of the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, said it was a heartwarming moment.
"It's been a long year for us, for a lot of people, and it's just so nice to see this vaccine get to the people who need it," said Lee, whose hospital oversees the long-term care home.
Lee said that after Fiddler was inoculated, she spoke in Ojicree to other residents at the home about the importance of getting vaccinated.
"That was great to get the message to her people," said Lee.
Lee said that all of the chronic care patients at the 60-bed hospital were inoculated on Thursday. All hospital staff will be vaccinated in the coming week, she added.
The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre serves residents of the town 350 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont. It also serves the surrounding area, including Hudson, Pickle Lake, Savant Lake, and 28 First Nation communities.
Lee stressed the importance of vaccinations in remote communities because they are more vulnerable to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
"We have a very high level of comorbidities, social determinants to health are lacking in a number of northern communities," said Lee. "It unfortunately creates a higher risk for transmission."
ORNGE delivered the first COVID-19 vaccines to Sioux Lookout and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in Moose Factory on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Ontario's solicitor general said that the government is working with Nishnawbe-Aski Nation to begin vaccinations of northern fly-in First Nation communities this week.
"All adults in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations where infections can have disproportionate consequences, including those living in remote or isolated areas, will be among the first to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks," said Stephen Warner.
Warner said that Ontario's vaccine task force has a sub-table dedicated to getting First Nations and Indigenous people inoculated.
— By John Chidley-Hill in Toronto
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2021.
The Canadian Press