Three questions about vaccination in Kahnawake
While Quebec aims to vaccinate 75% of adults in the province with a first dose by June 15th, Kahnawake has reached that goal back in April. About 74% of the adult population in the community and 70% of 16- and 17-year-olds have already received their first shot. All front-line employees who work in the area are fully vaccinated as well. Le Soleil de Châteauguay spoke with Lisa Westaway, Executive Director of the Kateri-Memorial Hospital Center and member of the Kahnawake COVID-19 Task Force, to find out how this first phase of the immunization campaign unfolded. The interview has been edited for clarity. [caption id="attachment_104428" align="alignleft" width="444"] Lisa Westaway, Executive Director of the Kateri-Memorial Hospital Center and member of the Kahnawake COVID-19 Task Force. (Photo: Kahnawake 911 Facebook page)[/caption] What was your impression of this first phase of the vaccination campaign? The first phase went really well. Certainly, at the beginning, there was a little bit of reluctance in the community. But we had a very good communication plan. A plan for education and transfer of knowledge. Because of the level of risk, we worked in a collaborative way. All of our organizations are working together to create a special task force to really educate and provide updates on what's going on. We also created our own local Public Health team. We really took care of the COVID case management ourselves. In terms of communication, this is essential because our first language is English. Being able to communicate in English is very important, so we did that ourselves. What are the risk factors for the community? Uncontrolled chronic diseases like diabetes and heart problems. Our diabetes rates are three times higher than the Quebec population. It puts us at great risk. We have a very high poverty rate. Our housing accommodations are also very different: there are very close links between multiple family generations; people who live very close to each other or multiple generations who live together. Our parental ties are very different from the general community, we see our family three times a day sometimes. Grandchildren are often with their grandparents. That increases the possibility of virus transmission. We also have a high rate of psychosocial problems, and our percentage of people aged 70 and over is very high compared to the general population as well. So, we have a high rate of vulnerable people. Also, we have three residences, a CHSLD, an RI (intermediate resource) and an RPA (private seniors’ residence). In a very small community of 8,000 people, that's a lot. There is also the fact that this work of protecting the community, is also protecting our culture and our language because the culture and the language are really among the elderly. They are the ones who hold this knowledge to transfer it to the younger generation, so it is very important to protect them for that reason as well. Can you tell me a bit more about the decision to vaccinate young people? We see that there are a lot of outbreaks in schools in the province. We wanted to give our community every possible chance to get protected. As I mentioned, our young people are often with their grandparents, so a young person who has COVID has a lasting impact on the community because of the very close ties between families of multiple generations.
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