The first COVID-19 vaccine clinic in a Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw community has begun administering shots.
The clinic in Millbrook First Nation, which launched Wednesday, will serve as a prototype for the other 12 Mi’kmaw communities around the province.
Thirty people received their first dose of the vaccine Wednesday, with another 170 people expected to get the shot Thursday. The clinic is available to Mi’kmaq aged 55 and up.
“I was excited, I feel protected,” said Mi’kmaw elder Patsy Paul-Martin, who was among the first to get the jab.
Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade also got his first dose of the vaccine Wednesday, calling it “long overdue.”
“It gives me an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective, from a different lens,” said Gloade, adding it’s an assurance not only for him but for his family and community.
The Assembly of First Nations had previously voiced concerns about the province’s vaccine rollout plan, but Gloade said his community is satisfied with the work that’s been going on between community leaders and Public Health to get the clinic off the ground.
Community physician Dr. Beau Blois was the one administering the shots — a task he called “fairly easy” from a medical standpoint.
He said the real challenge of administering a vaccine in a community setting is the logistics: getting the information out there, helping people travel to and from the clinic if necessary, and making sure no doses of the vaccine go to waste.
“I have to take my hat off to all our administrators here because they’ve been working tirelessly. I just put a needle in someone’s arm and make sure they don’t have a reaction,” Blois said.
The next steps will be to get everyone back in the clinic in a few weeks to administer the second and final dose of the vaccine, and advocating for the rest of the Mi’kmaw community — people aged 55 and under — to get the shot next.
There’s a strong demand for the vaccine in Mi’kmaw and First Nations communities, Blois said, because of the “high burden of chronic disease” within the communities and the high risk of serious health outcomes from COVID-19.
Some of the clinic’s nurses will head to Sipekne’katik First Nation in the coming weeks to help get that community’s vaccine clinic up and running.