“Oh, that’s all?”

Dettah’s Marilyn Colin was surprised by the simplicity of receiving her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Friday.

The Dettah resident was among dozens of people in the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) community to receive their jabs Friday at the clinic held inside the Memorial Complex.

Dettah’s clinic comes just over two weeks after the NWT’s vaccination campaign began on Dec. 31. More than 512 doses of Moderna have been given to NWT residents so far, according to the GNWT’s Covid-19 Dashboard.

Rielle Nakehk’o, left, prepares to send off Marilyn Colin after she received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Friday in Dettah. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

Colin said that before she got her shot she felt some anxiety because the Moderna vaccine is only a couple of months old.

“It’s good the community could get their shots,” she added. “It’s good we don’t have to go to Yellowknife and stand in line somewhere.”

With the vaccines rolling ahead, Colin said she can begin to think about seeing her daughter in Edmonton again.

“I haven’t seen her since last February.”

YKDFN CEO Jason Snaggs said the clinic on Friday was proceeding “wonderfully” and there has been a lot of enthusiasm in the community for the vaccines, especially among the Elders.

Even though the community is receiving its vaccines before the general population of nearby Yellowknife, Snaggs explained that it’s important that YKDFN members receive the vaccine because many live in vulnerable conditions.

Eddie Sangris, Dettah chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, left, listens as nurse Cherie Cadiz explains details of the Covid-19 vaccine to him, at Dettah’s vaccination clinic on Friday. GNWT image

“Dettah and Ndilo suffer the same or similar circumstances when it comes to overcrowded houses. We have a population where housing is an issue, and where families live very close knit and in close quarters. It is important that – especially those who have a lot of underlying medical conditions – do get this vaccine. We have a prevalence of pneumonia that typically affects the Elders.

“It’s important that we protect them because they’re the keepers of the YKDFN knowledge. We’re no different than any other First Nation, whether they are living in a remote community or or living in an urban centre. The issues are the same.”

There has been no vaccine hesitancy among YKDFN members, Snaggs remarked, as the First Nation has been advocating the value of vaccination for a while.

“This is an opportunity, as you can see, where people are actively going out and getting the vaccine because they recognize the importance of protecting their health and their families.”

Lena Drygeese helped make the vaccine roll out easier for some Dettah residents by translating information and procedures into the Wiilideh language.

“I like interpreting for my people. I learn more wording along the way too,” said Wiilideh interpreter Lena Drygeese at the vaccine clinic. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

Many people already knew a fair bit about the vaccine and Covid-19 through the news media, said Drygeese, who works as a freelance interpreter.

Others just wanted to hear more details in their own language.

“One Elder asked how a vaccine was found so fast, because it usually it takes years. A nurse explained and I translated how scientists and countries worked together to get it out really quickly. He said he was amazed.

Drygeese laughed as she recalled that she only got the call to do interpretation services 15 minutes before the clinic opened on Friday morning.

“I didn’t have anything planned for today. It’s alright. I like interpreting for my people. I learn more wording along the way too. I’ll do more clinics if they ask me.”

Of the 190 doses that the vaccination team brought to Dettah, 46 had been administered by around lunch time, said Diana Ollerhead, the lead nurse with the team.

Lead nurse Diana Ollerhead draws the Moderna vaccine into a syringe for the other nurses to use at the vaccination clinic. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

The doses were brought into the Memorial Complex in a freezer box. Ollerhead took them out to thaw at intervals to ensure enough were ready as people came in. It takes one hour to unthaw the vials at room temperature.

“I’m the only person drawing vaccines into the syringes. I draw them up as we use them to make sure we don’t have any wasted doses,” she said. The vaccine-filled needles are then passed onto the three nurses working at the clinic.

People could show up for their shots without needing to register in advance.

Now that Sarah Black received her first dose, she’s looking forward to when she can get her second dose and then possibly drive to Vancouver to get her car and drive it back here in a few months.

“I grew up here and moved away and then came back last June. I miss my car,” she said.

Cherie Cadiz, left, gives the Moderna vaccine to Sarah Black in the Memorial Complex gym in Dettah. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

Black is glad that people in Dettah, particularly Elders are finally getting vaccinated .

“I still feel a little scared because the vaccine is so new. We’re like the test subjects. But I’m not too worried about it.”

Dettah’s sister community of Ndilo is scheduled to receive its vaccination clinic on Saturday, making it the 23rd community in the NWT where immunizations have started, according to the Covid-19 vaccine schedule.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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