Six Nations band members can soon preregister for COVID-19 vaccine

·3 min read

Six Nations of the Grand River is preparing to sign up band members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, while joining forces with other First Nations communities in Ontario to push for more doses.

At Friday’s special council meeting, Six Nations Elected Council endorsed the “prioritization matrix” created by the reserve’s vaccine task force.

The matrix classifies recipients based on their risk of a “severe outcome” were they to contract COVID-19, and their level of potential exposure to the virus.

Those in the highest priority group — residents and staff of long-term-care homes — have largely been vaccinated. Next on the list are seniors in congregate-care settings and, once vaccines become more widely available, adults over 60 and immunocompromised adults receiving home care.

Public health will soon launch a preregistration system so residents can “get your name on a list to get the vaccine once it becomes available,” said Six Nations Family Health Team administrative director Zach Miller.

Officials will contact those who preregister to book their shots once the needed doses arrive, at which point a general booking system will go live.

“Community members will be able to book an appointment for their vaccine similar to how they can book an appointment for a COVID-19 test,” Miller said.

The rollout plan hinges on more vaccines getting to Six Nations.

“There’s a trickling come in, and we’re trying to get what we can for our most vulnerable community members at this point,” said Lacey VanEvery, a public health nurse on the COVID-19 emergency control group.

“We’re working diligently to make sure we have everything in place so when that flood of vaccine comes in, we’re good to go.”

Six Nations is a “tier A” community for vaccination in the eyes of the province, said Coun. Nathan Wright, who sits on a “provincial table” with representations from other Indigenous Nations and senior levels of government.

“We’re first on the list to receive the vaccinations,” Wright said.

Responding to members of the public asking why Queen’s Park earmarked vaccines for remote Indigenous communities before more populous reserves in southern Ontario, Wright said five large First Nations have “banded together” to advocate for proportional vaccine shipments.

Several councillors raised the issue of non-Indigenous front-line workers who commute into Six Nations potentially getting vaccinated using doses intended for community members.

Dr. Maurica Maher of Indigenous Services Canada acknowledged this as “a real challenge” in light of the vaccine shortage, adding that not vaccinating front-line workers from outside Six Nations who work on the reserve could increase the risk of transmission.

“Obviously, you want to ensure they are not going to bring COVID into the community through lack of vaccination,” she said.

Teachers who live off-reserve were mentioned as a concern, but that issue became less pressing after council voted to keep schools closed for in-class learning until September in light of persistently high case counts on the reserve.

Five new positive cases were reported on Friday, bringing the active case count to 35.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator