Vaccine rollout along the James Bay coast could start this Friday: health authority

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The Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) is hopeful the first phase of vaccine rollout will start on Friday, Jan. 8.

As part of the provincial COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans, First Nation communities along the James Bay and Hudson Bay coast will be receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

“There is a lot of excitement and anxiety in the communities. I think that’s a good thing to have the option to be able to get the vaccine,” said Lynne Innes, WAHA’s CEO.

At this time, first doses will be provided to long-term care patients and long-term care staff in hospitals in Fort Albany, Attawapiskat and Moose Factory.

Innes couldn’t say the exact number of doses WAHA is hoping to receive Friday. She said it will be enough to vaccinate all long-term care patients and some of the healthcare workers.

Once more doses are delivered, there will be at least two mass immunization clinics in each community, said Innes.

The Moderna vaccine requires people to receive two doses 28 days apart.

“Once people receive the vaccine, they can expect full protection 14 days after receipt of the second dose of Moderna,” Innes said.

WAHA trained about 30 of its staff yesterday, Jan. 5, and another 30 staff today on how to administer the vaccine as well as on how to do the follow-up vaccination.

Receiving the vaccine is voluntary.

“I think it’s natural to have some vaccine hesitancy and I would encourage everyone to ensure that they’re getting the most appropriate information coming from our local public health unit to be able to make an informed decision on whether or not they wish to have the vaccine,” Innes said.

WAHA has been working with the Porcupine Health Unit, regional chief and councils, ORNGE air ambulances and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch on deployment plans.

“My hopes are that we’re going to receive enough vaccines to be able to vaccinate whoever wants the vaccine in our region,” Innes told TimminsToday. “And to keep our communities and our region safe.”

“I think it’s important we also have all of the public health measures put in place by our local leadership, our local authorities and our government to ensure we keep everybody as safe as we possibly can and we follow the social distancing, wearing masks.”

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com