“The decision on how to find an appropriate solution to dealing with the pandemic, with the options available, is in the hands of Nunavimmiut. Working together with the importance of our health and future at the forefront is crucial,” said the health board’s executive director, Minnie Grey, in a social media post Dec. 16.

COVID-19 vaccine set to arrive in Nunavik in January

“Everyone is free to choose to be vaccinated or not”

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavik should receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines by mid-January, but exactly how it will be distributed and who will get it remains to be worked out.

That’s according to Dr. Marie Rochette, director of public health at the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services.

The Quebec government previously identified Nunavimmiut as among the first few groups to have access to the vaccine, after those who live and work in long-term care homes and health-care workers.

The region would receive the Moderna vaccine, pending approval from Health Canada. That approval is expected by the end of the month.

Moderna’s vaccine is a new type called an mRNA vaccine. Instead of exposing the body to a weakened or inactivated virus in order to trigger an immune response, an mRNA vaccine gives the instructions to make a protein that triggers the immune response. That immune response triggers the production of antibodies, which in turn ward off infection.

Rochette said the health agency is consulting with its board members as well as mayors of the region’s 14 communities to determine what a vaccine campaign would look like, who would have first access and what capacity local health centres have to administer them.

“Most people … told us that they’d rather that we not rush to offer the vaccines in the coming weeks,” Rochette said.

“They’re very engaged about a vaccination campaign, but at the same time, they want to make sure it’s done properly,” she said. “And to look at what’s going on in other countries and other regions before we introduce it to the region. So we’re not rushing it.”

The Quebec government hopes to see 75 per cent of its population vaccinated in order to adequately protect everybody from the virus.

The COVID-19 vaccine has received a very different reaction in the region compared to the last major vaccination campaign against the H1N1 virus in 2009, when about 80 per cent of Nunavimmiut showed up to clinics to be vaccinated.

In social media forums in the region, many Inuit have said they don’t want to be treated like “guinea pigs” in the rollout of a new vaccine, suggesting it might not be safe.

Victoria Okpik, who is originally from Quaqtaq but lives in Montreal, says she’s ready and willing to be vaccinated, but understands the skepticism she sees in Nunavik.

“People are scared and lot of them are reading a lot of misinformation about the vaccine,” Okpik said.

It’s that misinformation that Rochette said health officials will have to target, to ensure Nunavimmiut can make an informed decision. The health board is already working on a communications campaign for social media and radio.

One of its key messages emphasizes choice.

“It is up to Nunavimmiut to make the decision,” the health board said in a Dec. 16 post on Facebook. “Everyone is free to choose to be vaccinated or not.”

Though she’s not considered in a priority group, Rochette plans to be vaccinated as soon as she can.

For now, Rochette urged Nunavimmiut to be vigilant over the holidays, when people tend to travel and gather more often. She’s encouraged that mask-wearing, isolation periods and screening tools have so far protected Nunavik from major outbreaks.

“But what we’ve seen in Nunavut is telling us that even if we put good measures in place, they’re not 100 per cent perfect. We still need to be careful, so we don’t see what’s happening in Arviat,” she said.

“And that’s why the vaccine is so important.”

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by KUUJJUAMIUK on

    I m ready

  2. Posted by Not hiding behind pseudonym on

    Bring on the vaccine to Kuujjuaq, there are many I know who want the vaccine than those who may question it. Misinformation on social media scares many ( not me), there are many in the over 60’s that would benefit and their families, but may have to do it by household to ensure that at least 70% of community gets covered

    • Posted by on looker on

      Misinformation on social media?, hmm…99% survival rate. Who’s misinformed?

      • Posted by Stephen Grasser on

        Survival rate of 99%? Check the daily stats from John Hopkins. As of Dec. 19, 2.8% of Canadians who contracted the disease have died. The US has a death rate of 1.7% while France has 2.4%.
        This may seem like nitpicking, but give the virulence of COVID-19 and its rapid spread, many, many people have died.

  3. Posted by How did most people say that. on

    I like to know how the health board doctor determines that most people don’t want to rush. She should clarify her statement. I of the opinion , and I’m surely think too that she’s of the opinion, my opinion being most want to get this vaccine as soon as possible. And why should people that are informed as by their own senses and knowledge and common sense have to be in a delayed situation for the vaccine because of the misinformed? I want this vaccine, and I want it for my family, and really for everyone, lest not be determined on the misinformed out there.

  4. Posted by Will wait on

    I will wait for few years for the Vaccine, beside we are fine here, common cold comes and goes, in fact I had it for three days, I am fine now, common cold comes and goes every spring and fall, I wonder if health expert are not aware of that, this virus is becoming more questionable each day, what I don’t get is Nunavik is covid free zone and yet will be the first to get it, I would prefer the south get it first not the north, north is fine, all of your so called sickness is all down south, has no creditability anymore.

    • Posted by You’re very tuff on

      The elders of Arviat are very impressed with your super strong immune system, but hope you can think of others this xmas and change your mind.

    • Posted by Vaccine for you on

      Yes, send the southerners out front first. I bet they’ll be happy to oblige. You should feel blessed that you are on the top of the list. Many people in south are already aware of the benefits of getting this vaccine. Northern people except a few like you too. Im not sure about sickness in the south, but the reason for vaccine in the north first, is that if covid gets in Nunavik, and believe me , you never seen nothing yet , just handful of cases, if it gets in you’ll be wishing in a different tone. Screaming to get south for your treatment.

    • Posted by Not aware of common sense on

      There’s no comparison between the common cold that comes and goes, and covid. You are living in the midst of the misinformed. But I can tell you are not sure of where you stand. I thinking , as the way you stated, you’ll knock someone over to get your dose of the vaccine. You are a patterned that in known well in the health care sitting. All talk, no action, but run over people.

  5. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    What a load of crap.
    First, U.S. hospitals do not get paid more if the patient dies of Covid-19. That is a myth. A lie.
    Second, deaths are attributed to Covid-19 because Covid-19 is what kills them. It is primarily a respiratory disease. People have other conditions that may make it more difficult for their bodies to fight off the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, but if it were not for the coronavirus and Covid-19 they would still be alive.
    Third, over 14,000 Canadians – and counting. That’s how many people have died from Covid-19 in Canada this year. I believe that their families would disagree with you.
    Fourth, over 1.7 million people have died of Covid-19. Unless every single country in the world and millions of health care specialists are in on a giant conspiracy Covid-19 is real, and deadly.
    Fifth, Mark Twain popularized the quote but it did not originate with him, and the correct quote is;
    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
    Stay safe. Stay Home. Wear a mask. Socially distance. Get the vaccine.

  6. Posted by Delay must be based on good reason on

    If this vaccine is to be delayed in Nunavik, there must be reasonable arguments. The fact that some people have fear is not a good enough reason. The health board and the municipalities should not be permitted to make a decision based on the fears of a few. And if they do imposed delays, they must show the number of people afraid of the vaccine based on if that’s the reason for the delay. There’s always fear in society, but it’s not the best interest of society to give into a small amount of fear. Fear in mostly the manifestation of ignorance , if we went with such fears, we’re all in big trouble.

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