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Nunatsiavut celebrates the first vaccines for Inuit population

Elder Willie Ford of Makkovik was the first resident in Nunatsiavut to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Monday morning. Pictured are (from left) ordinary member John Anderson, Ford, public health nurse Betty Sampson and AngajukKâk Barry Andersen, Makkovik Inuit Community Government. CONTRIBUTED
Elder Willie Ford of Makkovik was the first resident in Nunatsiavut to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Monday morning. Pictured are (from left) ordinary member John Anderson, Ford, public health nurse Betty Sampson and AngajukKâk Barry Andersen, Makkovik Inuit Community Government. CONTRIBUTED

The entire Inuit community of Makkovik on the Labrador coast has now been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health Minister Dr. John Haggie said he received word Monday afternoon that only one eligible adult in the community didn’t get the shot. Residents will be required to get a second dose of the Moderna vaccine in four weeks.

The Nunatsiavut government has been overseeing the administration of 1,800 doses to remote Inuit communities along the coast. Five hundred and 100 doses, respectively, are earmarked for populations represented by Mushuau Innu First Nations and Nunatukavut.

“This is a big day for the Big Land,” Premier Andrew Furey said during Monday’s regular COVID-19 briefing.

The region’s medical officer of health said last week that vaccinations will also start this week with health-care workers in Labrador, although the number of doses available is limited.

In the Eastern Health region of Newfoundland, where a new shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was scheduled to arrive Monday, authorities have also started vaccinating seniors and staff in long-term care.

That’s made possible by new manufacturer guidelines that allow the vaccine to be brought to one other administration point once it’s thawed.

Originally, the company specified the shots could only be given at the point where the vaccine first arrived.

Haggie said the Eastern Region can expect weekly shipments of 975 Pfizer doses until the end of February, and then twice that by March.

The Central and Western regions are getting the same.


Chief Medical Health Officer Fitzgerald — Contributed
Chief Medical Health Officer Fitzgerald — Contributed

 


Mask advice

Meanwhile, the province had no new cases of COVID-19 to report Monday, and has had only one known case in the past five days.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said she is pleased with the low post-holiday numbers.

“Today marks 11 days past New Year’s Eve, and I am encouraged by the continued low case counts of COVID-19 in our province,” she said. “I’m so thankful to everyone who has followed our guidance and sacrificed social gatherings and time with loved ones to make this possible.”

However, Fitzgerald said she has noticed some complacency about masks, and wants people to know a mask must be worn correctly to be effective.

“Non-medical masks do not replace physical distancing or hand-washing, and when worn properly they offer a layer of protection when physical distancing is not possible or if you unexpectedly are unable to physically distance,” she said.

A mask should have at least two layers of material, though three is recommended.

“If your mask is under your nose, it is not effective,” she said.

Fitzgerald also warned against assuming face shields are a viable alternative.

“Face shields are not an alternative to masks, as they are open and let droplets escape,” she said. “They are an option for those with a medical exemption from wearing masks to reduce risk, but they are not as effective as a mask.”

However, she implored people not to demean or confront anyone who is not adhering to mask requirements.

“There are individuals who are exempt from the requirement due to physical or other challenges, and remember that you do not know another person’s circumstances.”

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram.

@pjackson_nl


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