People rolled up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre (SSMIFC) Thursday.
The first 10 doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered to elders and caregivers as the result of a collaborative effort between the friendship centre, Algoma Public Health and Maamwesying North Shore Community Health Services to vaccinate the urban Indigenous population in the Sault.
The first elder to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the friendship centre was 82-year-old Batchewana First Nation member Virginia McCoy.
“We know our people in the community - we know their lifestyles and we’re culturally sensitive to urban Indigneous way of living - so what better place?” said SSMIFC Executive Director Cathy Syrette. “There’s a lot of people who come through our doors that feel safe. They feel welcome, they’re comforted, so this is where they want to come.”
According to Syrette, urban Indigneous people make up at least 12 per cent of the Sault’s total population, and they’re just as vulnerable to COVID-19 as people living on reserve.
“There’s high percentages of diabetes and chronic illness, and those stresses that our urban Indigenous people live with on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “We look at homelessness...the struggles with addiction and mental health, so I think it’s the ideal geographic place to have a vaccine clinic.”
People 80 years of age and up will receive the first round of vaccines, followed by the 55-79 age demographic. Syrette says that SSMIFC and Maamwesying will then work their way down the list according to priority groups before offering the second dose of the Moderna vaccine.
The friendship centre stresses that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are welcome to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at its 122 East Street location, which is considered the urban Indigneous hub for the vaccine locally.
“We are an Indigenous culturally-based organization, however, we service all people in the community that need or want the vaccine. We turn nobody away,” Syrette said.
According to Algoma Public Health, urban Indigenous people ages 55 and over can access either the COVID-19 Community Vaccine Hub at GFL Memorial Gardens or the clinics being held by the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre and Maamwesying North Shore Community Health Services.
The public can call the friendship centre directly at (705) 256-5634 in order to be placed on the SSMIFC COVID-19 vaccination list.