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Cree doctor helps clarify misconceptions around COVID-19 vaccine

Cree doctor Darlene Kitty is helping to clarify some of the misconceptions about the Moderna vaccine and wants to encourage more Quebec Cree to get vaccinated and help protect the most vulnerable people in their communities. 

Dr. Darlene Kitty wants to encourage more Quebec Cree to get vaccinated

Cree Doctor Darlene Kitty, right, got vaccinated with her mother Jane and father David at the start of the Cree health board's regional vaccination campaign, which began last month. Dr. Kitty sat down for a one-on-one interview with CBC North's Celina Wapachee to answer questions and address misinformation about the Moderna vaccine. (CBHSSJB/Marcel Grogorick)

Cree doctor Darlene Kitty is helping to clarify some of the misconceptions about the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Kitty wants to encourage more Quebec Cree to get vaccinated and help protect the most vulnerable people in Cree communities. 

The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay launched its regional vaccination campaign mid-January and as of Feb. 9, more than 9,300 people had received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. 

The goal of the campaign is to get more than 75 per cent of those eligible in Cree communities vaccinated. 

"The more people you vaccinate, obviously, people will have a better chance to stay healthier and the communities will be more protected," Kitty said during a sit down interview with CBC North to address some of the concerns and misinformation being circulated in Cree communities. 

Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, misinformation has been circulating online and people have been expressing their concern and fears about getting vaccinated.

Here are some of her answers to common questions.

WATCH | Hear what Dr. Kitty has to say about the vaccine:

Some people in Cree communities are calling the Moderna vaccine an "experimental" vaccine, something Kitty said is false.

"The science behind this [Moderna vaccine] is very strict. How that research is being done, what steps they must follow, it's very rigorous and comprehensive," she said.

WATCH | Dr. Kitty says fears about DNA impacts are false:

Some other fears being expressed on social media are that the vaccine would alter people's DNA or affect their ability to have children.

Dr. Kitty said these fears are unfounded. 

"[The vaccine] has no impact on our genetic material. So we don't have to worry that it goes into our DNA," said Dr. Kitty.

She added that there is no danger the vaccine will affect someone's ability to have children. 

WATCH | Dr. Kitty talks about the vaccination roll-out for Eeyou Istchee:

Dr. Kitty said COVID-19 is a new virus and it's normal for people to have fears and hesitations. 

She encouraged people to seek out credible sources of information. 

Back in 2009, when the H1N1 influenza came through the territory, the Cree communities had the highest vaccination rate in Quebec at 84 per cent of the population over six months of age, compared to a provincial average of 57.3 per cent. 

Right now, 70 per cent of eligible Cree have been vaccinated, according to health officials. 

"That's great ... we can do a little higher, so let's go for it," said Dr. Kitty.

WATCH | Dr. Kitty discusses vaccinations outside Cree region 18:

Some Cree who live outside the Cree health board boundaries in northern Quebec have not yet been able to access the vaccine. Those include people who live near Amos, or in larger cities such as Montreal or Gatineau. 

Dr. Kitty said the Cree Health Board can only administer the vaccine in the James Bay health region, but she said they are working hard to get access for all Cree people. 

WATCH | Dr. Kitty explains why people still need to follow health protocols:

Kitty said it's important for people who get vaccinated to continue with the COVID-19 health measures, such as washing hands, staying more than two metres apart, and wearing a mask.

Although the Moderna vaccine provides immunity from the virus, there is still a risk. 

"The Moderna vaccine will be about 94 per cent effective. So there's still a small risk that someone could get COVID even if they're vaccinated."

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