Most vulnerable in Kahnawake receive COVID-19 vaccine as community campaign begins

·2 min read
Kahnawake's vaccination clinic opened on March 4, with 90-year-old Warisó:se Myrtle Bush being the first elder to receive the shot. (Submitted by Jenny Kjono - image credit)
Kahnawake's vaccination clinic opened on March 4, with 90-year-old Warisó:se Myrtle Bush being the first elder to receive the shot. (Submitted by Jenny Kjono - image credit)

Ninety-year-old Warisó:se Myrtle Bush was the first elder living at home in Kahnawake, Que., to receive a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community began its mass vaccination campaign this week.

"If they're worried about it and are afraid it's going to hurt or anything, well, you can tell them it's not going to hurt at all," Bush told CBC News.

"It's better for us. I wasn't feeling bad, but I'm feeling even better now that I got it. I think we should all get it so that we don't make anyone else sick."

The vaccination site, which is located at the Mohawk Bingo hall, is being run by the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre and Kahnawake's COVID-19 task force. It's only open to Kahnawake residents and members.

Both Bush and her daughter Jenny Kjono said the process went smoothly.

"I think it's great. She's setting an example and she's very positive about it. She's been very positive throughout this whole pandemic," said Kjono.

Lisa Westaway, executive director of the hospital, said 102 elders and immunocompromised members were vaccinated Thursday, with 150 more scheduled to receive shots on Friday and Saturday.

"It really hit me today when we were speaking with some of the elders of the fact that they haven't left their homes in a year," she said.

"It's kind of anxiety-provoking to leave their homes and go into such a public place where there are going to be many people, so we also wanted to create an environment where, even though it's safe for everybody, we wanted to give them an opportunity to feel even safer."

Residents in long-term care and at the Turtle Bay Elders Lodge received their shots earlier this year, as did the majority of health-care workers in the community.

A hundred and two elders and immunocompromised community members received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 4 in Kahnawake, Que.
A hundred and two elders and immunocompromised community members received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 4 in Kahnawake, Que.(Submitted by Jenny Kjono)

Kahnawake is expecting a shipment of around 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday and will resume vaccinating community members 70 years and older on Tuesday, followed by the rest of the community within the next three weeks.

"This is the best I've felt in about a year," said Lloyd Phillips, commissioner of public safety at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and member of the community's COVID-19 task force.

"It's an exciting time and a major turning point in the community. This is what we need to get done, to vaccinate our entire community to start looking toward returning back to a normal life."