Garden River First Nation moves vaccine clinic indoors after snow hits the Soo

Mar 29, 2021 | COVID-19

COVID-19 sign that sits outside of the recreation centre to advise individuals where th clinic is taking place.

COVID-19 sign that sits outside of the recreation centre to advise people where the clinic is taking place. Photo credit: Danielle Dupuis

GARDEN RIVER, Ont. — Jessica Grawbarger, manager of the Wellness Centre in Garden River First Nation, was eager the morning of March 12 as she listened to the weather report.

A weather advisory for Sault Ste. Marie, Garden River and surrounding areas warned of gust of winds of 30 to 40 kilometres per hour. the same day as the First Nation was set to hold its third drive-thru vaccine clinic.

Grawberger did not want to cancel the 180 vaccinations scheduled to be administered that day. In a split decision, she made the call to host the clinic indoors and transformed the recreational centre into a vaccine clinic.

“This morning, we were able to put it together on very short notice, and everybody’s really come together due to the weather,” she said. “It’s been phenomenal to see all the support and everybody pulling together to get this done in our community.”

Within 90 minutes, all of the equipment and material were moved from the wellness centre to the recreational centre located two kilometres up the road, Grawbarger said.

As medical professionals started to arrive, many were impressed by the quick transformation.

“It was amazing. We showed up at the centre, and they transformed this place in 10 minutes,” said Julie Bradford, nurse practitioner volunteering her time to assist with vaccinations.We had all the stations set up and everything ready to go. It was seamless.”

The indoor facility was set up similarly to the drive-thru clinic.

A volunteer would be waiting at registration. Individuals would then be asked to relocate to one of three lanes. And after receiving the vaccine, they would be redirected to a waiting area for 15 minutes with first responders on sight in case of an emergency Grawbarger explained.

“We have a community fire department, they’re our first responders, so they’re helping us cover the 15-minute waiting block. So far no side effect or anything serious,” she said. “‘We do have an ambulance directly down the street as well.

“Now that we’re indoors, it’s different. But it’s still out in the parking lot,” Grawbarger said.

Garden River First Response Unit. Left is Craig Sayers and right is Lucas Pine. Both are waiting outside in case of emergency.

Garden River First Response Unit members Craig Sayers, left, and Lucas Pine ready in case someone has a reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo credit: Danielle Dupuis

To make this day happen, many volunteers came to Grawbarger’s aid to get things on track and make sure things worked smoothly.

Garden River First Nation launched its first drive-thru clinic on March 5 and administered 60 doses of the vaccine. Dr. Norma Bolduc, one of the physicians volunteering her time and has been a part of the vaccine process for Garden River since the beginning of March and played a large role in making the indoor clinic such a success.

“I assist with their policies and procedures as well as setting up the clinic today,” said Dr. Bolduc. “There is a lot of data entry as well and making sure we’re able to connect with the proper residents.”

With the new location, a team of volunteers called more than 180 residents to make them aware of the changes, Grawbarger said.

To date, the team has vaccinated over 430 residence and was able to host another drive-thru clinic on Friday March 19.

“We did have another clinic on Friday — curb side because it was so beautiful out. We were able to provide another 132 doses,” she said. “We will continue with weekly clinics, and I believe most of our elders have received their first dose.”

By following the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council recommendations and guidelines, the team has vaccinated its elder population, allowing people 55 and older to get the vaccine.

“Our first individual to be vaccinated was a 90 year older, who is identified to be the oldest, and then we’ve been making our way down,” Grawbarger said.

Grawbarger is unsure when the second set of vaccines will be delivered, but she hopes to secure the community’s second dose in the coming weeks.