Sask. First Nation's gamble on casino-based vaccine clinic pays off

·2 min read
The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation has administered more than 1,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the parking lot of the Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert, Sask. (Submitted by Richard Ahenakew - image credit)
The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation has administered more than 1,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the parking lot of the Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert, Sask. (Submitted by Richard Ahenakew - image credit)

Jeff Orpin says he wasn't sure whether the decision to set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the parking lot of a casino would work.

However, in just two days the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) has vaccinated more than 1,200 people in the parking lot of the Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert, Sask., with even more people expected on the clinic's third day.

"We're very happy with that and the public is very happy with it," said Orpin, public health manager for PBCN.

"It's been steady from basically from the time we opened."

Across Saskatchewan, various First Nations have set up clinics in attempts to get as many people vaccinated as possible, including the large vaccination clinic set up by the Saskatoon Tribal Council at the SaskTel Centre arena.

Orpin said it helps that the casino is located on the main highway running through Prince Albert.

"We're highly visual. You can see from the street we have the signage up and there's lots of lots of parking space there as well," he said.

"There's good distance and social distancing and everything's roped off."

Meanwhile, management at the casino has been impressed with the number of people going through the clinic.

"It turned out so, so wonderful," said casino general manager Richard Ahenakew.

"We just couldn't get a better place for people where there's easy access. And right now it can be hard to get an appointment, so it worked out good."

Orpin said that PBCN has run into some vaccine hesitancy with its members, as in many other communities across the province. He said the only thing the First Nation can do is make it easy for people to access vaccines and push people to reliable health information.

The clinic will wrap up its work on Wednesday evening. The clinic will operate 1 to 9 p.m. CST. All people eligible to receive a second dose of vaccine are welcome.

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