Luke Gull, 71, from Weenusk First Nation (Peawanuck) receiving his COVID-19 vaccination from Critical Care Paramedic Howie

Vaccination efforts accelerate across Ontario’s northern fly-in communities

February 1, 2021

1 February, 2021


Thunder Bay

| By: Par:

Ornge Media

“We are proud to work with Indigenous communities, organizations and health service providers to develop an effective and culturally appropriate approach to roll out vaccines throughout the North.” - Christine Elliot, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health

THUNDER BAY, Feb. 1, 2021 – Hundreds of residents in five fly-in communities will have access to the Moderna vaccine today, as Operation Remote Immunity officially begins its mission.

Recoginizing the critical important of engaging Indigenous leadership in how vaccines are offered to their communities, the plan was co-developed through a partnership with Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and Ornge, Ontario's provider of air ambulance and critical care transport services. 

Vaccination teams under the direction of Ornge will travel to 31 northern, remote NAN communities and Moosonee over the next three months to deliver and administer the vaccine to residents who wish to receive it.

“Ensuring the health and safety of Indigenous communities and other vulnerable populations is of the utmost importance to our government,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “We are proud to work with Indigenous communities, organizations and health service providers to develop an effective and culturally appropriate approach to roll out vaccines throughout the North.”

“Residents of fly-in First Nations communities are at disproportionate risk during the pandemic,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs. “Operation Remote Immunity is a critical part of Ontario’s phased vaccination rollout plan to protect the most vulnerable populations in the province and I commend all of the partners involved in delivering on this vital work.”

“The Moderna vaccine offers protection and hope for Indigenous communities across the North.  It is an honour and a privilege for Ornge to work closely with our partners at Nishnawbe Aski Nation as we ensure community access to this life-saving vaccine,” says Dr. Homer Tien, President and CEO of Ornge.  “We thank the community leadership for allowing our teams to begin this important work, and we appreciate the many residents who are providing their assistance by encouraging participation, setting up the clinics, and translating.  This effort would not be possible without their support.”

“Today marks a significant step towards ending the COVID-19 pandemic in Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Vaccination teams are being welcomed in communities across our territory, and I thank Ornge for their dedication to making this a successful rollout,” says Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.  “The number of community members giving their consent to receive the vaccine is encouraging. I look forward to this momentum continuing within the coming days as more teams enter our communities. We all have a part to play in ending this pandemic. This includes receiving the vaccine if you can to protect those in your community who are not eligible to receive it.”

In this phase of the rollout, the vaccine will be available to community members 18 years of age or older.  Weenusk First Nation was the first to host a vaccination team and clinic on January 26.  This week, teams will be visiting Neskantaga, Slate Falls, Muskrat Dam, Fort Severn, Webequie and Kashechewan.  Operation Remote Immunity aims to complete its work by April 30, 2021.

Vaccination teams and partners in these efforts consist of highly trained medical professionals representing a number of organizations, including the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA), the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA), the First Nations Inuit Health Branch (FNHIB), the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, northern Paramedic Services, the Porcupine Health Unit, among others.  Team members have received the full COVID-19 vaccine and have undergone cultural training prior to this operation. 

It is critical that everyone continues to follow public health measures to ensure we limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep communities safe.

For more information please contact:
Joshua McNamara
Ornge Media Relations
416-531-7577 (local)
1-888-229-8115 (toll free)


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