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Vaccines rollout in Kahnawake

MARISELA AMADOR THE EASTERN DOOR

A year after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, mass vaccinations finally began in Kahnawake.

The excitement was palpable yesterday (Thursday) morning at the Mohawk Bingo on Highway 138, as staff from the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC), and the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake prepared, and waited for community members to receive their vaccines.

A small ceremony was held right outside of the facility where community member Darryl Thompson said a prayer and burned tobacco to mark the momentous occasion.

Subsequently, community members within the 85 and over age group started trickling in at 10 a.m. for their appointments.

The first two Kahnawa’kehró:non to get vaccinated were sisters-in-law Mildred “Millie” and Myrtle Bush.

“I feel excellent,” said Myrtle. “I was not scared or worried,” she said as she arrived at the vaccination site.

“My son has been calling every Sunday to ask me if I got my shot yet. He is worried. He is going to be so happy when he finds out I got it today,” said Myrtle.

When the nurse finished administering the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Myrtle was pleasantly surprised at how quick and painless it was. She didn’t feel a thing.

The community received 242 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, and next Monday, they will receive an additional 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

One hundred doses were administered yesterday, and another 150 doses will be given today and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday).

Today, community members 80 years of age and older and immunosuppressed will be vaccinated.

As of tomorrow, people aged 70-plus will get their shots.

“Then we start mass vaccinations for the whole community,” said KMHC executive director Lisa Westaway.

The mass vaccinations will be first-come, first-served, and 80 percent of the community is expected to be vaccinated within the next two to three weeks.

“This is a day we have been looking forward to for a year now,” said COVID-19 Task Force lieutenant Lloyd Phillips.

“Going through this pandemic has been a tough time for the entire community for a year now. To see the first shipment come in this morning was a historic moment in my mind,” he continued.

On Wednesday, during the Task Force daily briefing, Phillips pleaded to the community requesting that everyone get vaccinated.

“I believe that the vast majority of the community is looking forward to being vaccinated. We are rolling out as quickly as we can,” said the lieutenant.

The Task Force explained that they took every precaution possible to get the vaccination site ready and safe for everyone, including those at risk and immunosuppressed.

“It is a little overwhelming, to be honest,” said Westaway on the first day. “Just seeing that delivery of vaccines come through, the site all ready to go and all the staff, is super exciting. Historic is a good word,” she continued.

They are also asking individuals to come just a few minutes before their appointment time to avoid having too many people in the facility at once.

For security purposes, once a person gets their shot, they need to wait 15 minutes in a designated area before they are allowed to leave. On Thursday, paramedics were on standby in case of an emergency.

“We have done so well. This is the last step that we need to get through this pandemic and not just here, everywhere, across the world,” said Westaway. “We can’t escape this part of the process, and the vaccine is there to protect all of us,” said Westaway.

She explained that the minister of health made a change on Wednesday night, and the second dose can now be administered up to 114 days from the first.

“We have a registry of everybody who has come through, and there will be a second dose, but we still need clarification as to when exactly that will be.”

According to Westaway, the minister of health will keep making changes based on new research that becomes available.

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