“As Chief, I want to show my people that it’s safe to take (the vaccine).”
Ernest Betsina, the Ndilo chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) was the first person in the community to get their Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday.
While Betsina is pleased that Ndilo was among the communities to receive first doses just over two weeks after vaccinations started in the NWT, he feels the GNWT could have provided more information about the vaccinations before Christmas.
“(It should have) let people know in advance about the vaccine, about any complications, or how it’s going to be rolled out,” he said. “Let the leadership know what’s going to happen because the members would want to talk to the leadership and ask questions.
“A lot of my members don’t have internet. They don’t have computers. And Elders can’t read and write. So it has to be explained to them. All that takes time.”
Despite that shortcoming, he feels that seeing some YKDFN members among the vaccination team, such as student nurse Erica Abel has helped ease the tension and hesitancy among some Elders.
Like the current chief, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Dene Nation George Erasmus likewise hoped to set an example by rolling up his sleeve Saturday.
“I grew up here,” he said. “I came today to be part of the early people getting the shot. If anyone has any doubts, seeing me get it might show them it’s OK.”
After he quietly received his vaccination, he expressed some surprise that the vaccine arrived sooner in the NWT than he expected.
“I’m really glad it came quickly,” he said. “We keep hearing in the news how slow it’s coming out in the south but it’s coming out fast in the North. It’s important that we get it. In some of those small communities they don’t even have health centres. I’m really glad it’s happening. I encourage everyone to get it.”
The vaccination clinic administered jabs in the gymnasium in Ndilo on Saturday, after immunizing residents of the YKDFN sister community of Dettah on Friday.
Some Dettah residents who couldn’t attend Friday’s clinic opted to come by on Saturday instead.
“We have a great turnout today. It’s going really good,” said lead nurse Rielle Nakehk’o, who was in charge of drawing the Moderna vaccine into syringes for the three nurses who administered the doses.
The vaccination team brought 140 doses to Ndilo. By 11 a.m. 40 had been injected into residents’ arms.
Speaking in Wiilideh, Elder Michael Francis said he’s glad he received his shot and that Ndilo can begin to be protected from the global pandemic.
“I had a dream a while ago about something happening in the world,” interpreter Lena Drygeese said on his behalf. “There are certain foods or animals that people shouldn’t eat. Maybe that’s what caused this Covid?”
According to a schedule posted online by the GNWT, Ndilo is the 23rd NWT community where vaccines have been administered to residents.
More than 512 doses of Moderna have been given to NWT residents so far, according to the GNWT’s Covid-19 Dashboard.