Nova Scotia

Eskasoni aims to vaccinate 100 per cent of eligible population

Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton is using mobile clinics to help take raise their vaccination rate among people over 12 in order to protect the community's high population of young people.

Officials say a higher rate needed to protect children who can't be vaccinated

The Ally Centre's rolling health centre is in Eskasoni, N.S., on Sept. 24 to administer COVID-19 vaccines. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

A First Nation in Cape Breton is aiming to get 100 per cent of eligible people in the community vaccinated for COVID-19.

About 74 per cent of Eskasoni's population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated. Officials say that number needs to be higher to protect the youth in the community.

"We have a very young population, with approximately 25 percent of our community under the age of 12 and therefore unable to receive the vaccine," said Suzanne Patles, communications co-ordinator for Eskasoni.

"Many children live in homes with their grandparents or other family members with chronic health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID infection."

Eskasoni has taken extra precautions in the past when it comes to dealing with the ongoing pandemic, including closing its borders to non-essential visitors and imposing a curfew.

Chief Leroy Denny told CBC last year many of the community's 4,500 residents have chronic conditions that could make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Eskasoni First Nation security guards operate a checkpoint on Route 216 at the entrance to the reserve on March 24, 2020, during a locally declared state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

A Department of Health spokesperson said Thursday that 88.7 per cent of the eligible population is partially vaccinated in Nova Scotia, and 83.1 per cent is fully vaccinated. More than 73 per cent of Nova Scotia's total population is fully vaccinated.

In order to get as close to the 100 per cent goal as possible, the community has partnered with the Ally Centre of Cape Breton to offer mobile vaccine clinics today. The mobile unit will not require residents to have an appointment.

The Eskasoni Community Health Centre has been holding vaccine clinics every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and they used to require appointments, but they do take walk-ins now. 

Patles said another option will help people.

"It may be mothers with children at home that don't have child care or those without access to TV or internet, so they don't know about our clinics, or it may be people who are living day to day and struggling and other aspects of their life and have not made getting immunized a priority."

Proof of vaccination rules

Patles said having residents be free to go about their business is also a priority for Eskasoni, with proof-of-vaccination rules coming into effect in Nova Scotia on Oct. 4. The aim is to make sure people won't face restrictions when it comes to non-essential services, such as hockey games and arts and cultural events.

The Eskasoni Community Health Centre is also helping people get their proof of vaccination printed and laminated, said Patles. 

After a change in schedule, the mobile clinic will now be at Muin Gas Station from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and at the Foodland from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., if the grocery store is able to reopen today after some water problems. 

Patles said if the clinic is a success the community may hold another with the help of the Ally Centre. 

A clinic is also being set up next to the Dan K. Stephens Memorial arena during the home-opener game for Eskasoni's Junior B hockey team on Oct. 3.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca

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