Thunder Bay

Close to 400 vaccinated as clinic launched for Thunder Bay's urban Indigenous population

The head of the Ontario Native Women's Association says its first vaccine clinics for Thunder Bay's urban Indigenous population were launched with success this week. 

Telephone booking line swamped with over 1,200 calls in first hour

Cora-lee McGuire-Cyrette is the executive director of the Ontario Native Women's Association, which is running the Mindimooyenh Vaccination Clinic in Thunder Bay, Ont. in partnership with Dilico Anishnabek Family Care and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. (Chondon Photography)

The head of the Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA) says its first vaccine clinics for Thunder Bay's urban Indigenous population were launched with success this week. 

Over the course of two days, 396 people received a vaccine, said Cora-lee McGuire-Cyrette, the executive director of the ONWA, describing what was, at times, an emotional scene. 

"The staff were in tears, you know, the people we were able to get vaccinated were in tears because they were so happy and relieved," she said.

The Mindimooyenh Vaccination Clinic is now expected to run on a weekly basis, McGuire-Cyrette said. It's a partnership between ONWA, Dilico Anishnabek Family Care and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

While individual First Nations and tribal councils have started efforts to vaccinate their membership, McGuire-Cyrette said they also saw the need for something aimed at the larger Indigenous population in the city, to get as many people vaccinated as possible. 

Indigenous adults in remote and higher-risk communities are a priority population under the first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout plan.

"We know statistically speaking that Indigenous people are more likely to die from COVID and there's numerous intersectional issues over why that's happening," McGuire-Cyrette said. And we also recognize that racialized groups such as Indigenous and Black people are reluctant to access the healthcare system." 

In preparing to launch the clinic, much thought was given to making it inviting, well-organized, and culturally safe, she said.

There appears to be plenty of demand, as a phone line set up to take bookings received over 1,200 calls in its first hour, McGuire-Cyrette said, adding that they are also creating an online booking system.

The goal is to register as many people as possible, she said, and to ramp up the capacity of the clinics as vaccines become available in greater supply.

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