Community vaccinations for COVID-19 began in the Northwest Territories this week, and on Wednesday health officials are in Wekweètì.
Chief Charlie Football, 70, planned to be first in line for the Moderna vaccine.
“I don’t mind because I want to show my people that if I could do it maybe they could do it for themselves,” Football said.
“If they don’t do it and they get this sickness, what can we do? It’s going to be too late.”
The community is home to about 150 people, mostly Tłı̨chǫ Dene. It’s a fly-in community about 190 kilometres north of Yellowknife. Wekweètì has a small health centre with no permanent doctors on site and limited resources.
This week a vaccination team is visiting some of the N.W.T.’s most remote communities to inoculate as many people as possible. Anyone over the age of 18 can get the vaccine if they want it.
Football said initially he didn’t like to talk about COVID-19 for fear it would bring the disease to his community, which is a belief passed down from his grandparents.
“They say it’s right in front of your mouth when you talk about something,” said Football.
But with cases surging in the South, he says it’s important to talk about it now.
“People down South, they get sick with it. They pass away with it. It’s too late. So this is our chance.”
He said he hopes people in all Tłı̨chǫ communities get the vaccine, saying there’s “no use running away.”
Football said some people in the community have been nervous about getting the vaccine. He said there’s been a lot of gossip about its effectiveness, which he said comes from the South. One of his youngest family members said she wasn’t going to get the shot.
“I told her, ‘It’s your life,'” he said.
Football believes at least 25 people had signed up for the first dose. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine is generally administered about a month after the first.
A health official confirmed that they had enough doses to inoculate everyone in the community who was eligible. If people choose not to get it, but later wish to, the health department will co-ordinate additional immunizations with the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency.
The territory’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola joined the vaccine team on Wednesday and plans to get her vaccine while in the community.