First Nations members cautious about flu vaccine
Not all residents of an isolated Manitoba First Nations community hit hard by the first wave of the H1N1 flu are eager to be vaccinated against an expected second outbreak of the virus.
One person living on the Garden Hill First Nation died after swine flu emerged in the spring, and 50 other cases of the virus were confirmed in the Island Lake region that includes the reserve.
Leaders have estimated that hundreds more people may have contracted H1N1.
However, despite the availability on Monday of flu shots for more than half of the community’s 4,500 residents, some people said they’re holding off over worries about potential side effects.
Audrey Monias said she would wait a few days to see how others react to the vaccine before taking the plunge.
"I’m just curious," she told CBC News. "I don’t know how people are going to be affected by this needle, because I don’t know anything about it."
Officials in Garden Hill, located about 600 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, have converted a school gymnasium into a mass vaccination clinic for the community's 4,500 residents.
One public health nurse working at the clinic said she’s been working to quell any fears people in Garden Hill have about the H1N1 vaccine.
"Nobody can be forced to take them," Kelly Gillies said. "There are a lot of myths that have been floating around all over Canada about the flu shot, but we’ve tried to do as much teaching and education as we can in the community."
Garden Hill’s chief and council were the first in line to be vaccinated Monday morning. Chief Dino Flett said he hoped their willing presence sent a message to community members how important getting the flu shot is to protect everyone.
"I want to encourage people and show them it’s safe," Flett said.
More vaccine is on the way to Garden Hill, and the clinic will operate 12 hours a day for the rest of the week.