Ulukhaktok achieves 97% vaccination rate

·2 min read
Ulukhaktok Mayor Joshua Oliktoak says after some initial reluctance he decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect his grandson and the community's elders.
Ulukhaktok Mayor Joshua Oliktoak says after some initial reluctance he decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect his grandson and the community's elders.

(Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)

The second dose of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Ulukhaktok this week and around 97 per cent of eligible residents have had at least one dose.

Over the last two weeks, the Beaufort Delta communities of Ulukhahktok, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbor and Tsiigehtchic have started receiving the second dose.

Of around 450 residents in Ulukhaktok, Mayor Joshua Oliktoak said around 250 of them were over 18 and eligible to get vaccinated.

Oliktoak said he was tentative at first about the vaccine, but he got the shot to protect his grandson and local elders and he has zero regrets.

"It's been very satisfying to see the amount of the community members to get the vaccination," Oliktoak said. "It puts us at peace in our bodies and in our minds that a lot of our elders are safe now."

Lots of interest

At the clinic Wednesday, community health nurse Stacey Kozak and her team could be seen making calls to residents checking to see if they were coming to get their first or second doses.

"It's been really, really good," she said. "Everyone has been very eager and for the last couple of weeks people have been calling the health centre wanting to know when the COVID vaccine team is coming back, and wanting to make sure they get their name on the list."

Mackenzie Scott/CBC
Mackenzie Scott/CBC

At the clinic, nurses explain to residents the temporary side effects they may experience the day after getting the shot, including soreness around the injection site and feeling under the weather.

In Ulukhaktok, several residents reported feeling unwell the day after the second dose and decided to take the day off of work.

Helen Kalvak Elihakvik School closed on Wednesday after multiple teachers called in sick, but Kozak said that it's nothing people should worry about.

"It's normal. It's to be expected and they should rest if they feel they need to," Kozak said.

COVID-19 'could just wipe us out'

"Whatever side effects they are having [are] better than getting COVID. So even if you feel under the weather, you know you are protected against the potential side effects of getting COVID, which could be very significant."

Elders John and Emma Alikamik were away during the first round of vaccinations, so they were happy to be able to get their first doses this week.

"If one of us gets it in this town … it could just wipe us out, so it's important to get it," Emma Alikamik said.

Oliktoak, Ulukhaktok's mayor, has now had both doses. He said he had a sore arm and was tired Wednesday, but felt better Thursday.

Oilktoak said this past Christmas was the first time he can remember that there was no gathering during the holidays. He's hopeful that gatherings will be able to take place again soon, once things return to "somewhat normal, whatever that normal will be."