On Saturday, January 16, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) delivered Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to the nine Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee
CHISASIBI, QUEBEC January 17, 2021 - On Saturday, January 16, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) delivered Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to the nine Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee. A charter flight labelled “C-19” left from Montreal at daybreak and dropped off vaccine to clinical staff at six airports across the region.
The CBHSSJB, its partners in the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Quebec, local Cree Nations and the regional Cree Nation Government have been preparing for weeks for a vaccination campaign that offers the Moderna vaccine to eligible residents who want to be vaccinated. Vaccination is voluntary and free.
The vaccination effort comes as public health authorities work to contain an active outbreak of COVID-19 in inland Cree communities. As of January 17, there were 47 active cases of COVID-19 among the population (one of the people resides outside the region). Current figures are available on the COVID-19 landing page.
Indigenous communities and isolated and remote communities are prioritized for vaccination in Quebec, due to several factors that make them more vulnerable as a whole than urban populations. In Eeyou Istchee, many people live in multi-generational households that include Elders, more than 20% of adults over 20 are living with diabetes, and there is limited access to specialized health care services within the region. Seriously ill people in these remote communities have to be evacuated by air or road to already overburdened hospitals in the south.
Leaders are demonstrating support for the vaccination effort. Grand Chief Dr. Abel Bosum and his wife Sophie were vaccinated in their home community of Ouje-Bougoumou on January 10, 2021.
CBHSSJB Chairperson, Bertie Wapachee, was vaccinated on January 17 in Chisasbi.
“We are lucky to have had this kind of leadership in the fight against the pandemic. Our success, however, comes from the collaboration, dedication and teamwork of our frontline people, as well as the willingness of our Nation to follow strict protocols. For without the collective and allied effort, the numbers would be very different today. The Cree Health Board has been working hard to prepare for this vaccination campaign, and we are grateful to be able to say: we are ready! I got vaccinated, and I encourage all our staff in the communities to do the same.” -- Bertie Wapachee, Chairperson, CBHSSJB
“The Cree Nation Government has full confidence in our health and social services in Eeyou Istchee to deliver a successful COVID vaccination campaign. My wife Sophie, our adult children, and I, were vaccinated in Oujé-Bougoumou last week. We are happy to do our part to protect vulnerable community members. Vaccination is an important first step toward being able to finally put this pandemic behind us as a Nation. We would like to thank frontline and emergency workers as well as community members who have sacrificed important events and activities for the well-being of their loved ones and neighbours.” -- Grand Chief Dr. Abel Bosum
The start of vaccination will not mean the end of health measures. It will take several months to protect a sufficiently large proportion of the population with the vaccine. Physical distancing, wearing a mask or face covering and hand-washing will still be required until further notice.
Due to the active outbreak in inland communities, local authorities have put in place measures to limit movement within and between communities, including curfews and closures. For the latest restrictions, consult the Cree Nation Government website at cngov.ca
If you have general questions about COVID-19 and the vaccination campaign, learn more at the Cree Health Board’s FAQ pages at www.creehealth.org/covid-vaccine-faq.