‘Have faith in this vaccine, you could actually help us get past this’: Dene National Chief

Behchokǫ̀ getting wastewater testing, setting up information checkpoints on Highway 3.

Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya. (File photo/CKLB).

Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya is encouraging everyone eligible across Denendeh to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, to protect loved ones and allow life to return to normal.

“The only way to protect ourselves is to get the vaccine,” he said at a press conference on Friday.

No region across the territory is at the vaccination rate required for herd immunity. A 75 per cent vaccination rate was at one time considered the threshold for herd immunity, but officials have previously said it may need to be higher.

Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a second dose of the vaccine.

The Tłı̨chǫ area has the lowest vaccination rate as only 37 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated, while the Sahtu is the next lowest with 47 per cent.

As for why so many are hesitant to receive the vaccine, Yakeleya said one factor is likely a lack of trust in the government.

But he praised the work of Dr. Kami Kandola, NWT chief public health officer, as well as the territorial and federal government for prioritizing Indigenous communities with the vaccine roll out.

“We know that Dr. Kandola has done all she can do with her team to ensure that people are safe,” he said.

Now it is on the individuals to do their part, he added.

“Have faith in this vaccine, you could actually help us get past this,” Yakeleya said.

He added the sooner the territory reaches herd immunity, the sooner life can return to normal.

“Communities are planning Treaty 11 celebrations,” he said, “that means dancing, Hand Games … being with one another. The only way that we could possibly do this is through the vaccine.”

Behchokǫ̀ hosting more vaccination clinics

Behchokǫ̀ Chief Clifford Daniels said members of his community are worried about the ongoing situation in Yellowknife.

“There’s still anxiety and fear,” he said, “so we’re taking all the precautions.”

Daniels said information checkpoints are being set up on Highway 3 and the community is launching wastewater testing to detect early traces of COVID-19. Daniels said he wants both of these up and running as soon as possible.

The community held a vaccination clinic on Thursday, where all the doses were used up in a matter of hours. Another adult vaccination clinic is coming to the community Monday and a youth one for the Pfizer vaccine will be held on Tuesday.

Daniels said this brings a bit of relief to the community and he hopes it is a way to ensure children can return to normal life as soon as possible.

“Education is important, they need to get back to school and I think there’s some relief,” he said of parents knowing their kids can be protected.

Daniels agrees with Yakeleya and encouraged his community members to get the vaccine.

“This wasn’t really affecting Behchokǫ̀ and now it is,” he said. “If we do have have one person who is a contact, it could be really bad here … The spread can happen very fast and effect lots of people we love.”

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is a graduate of Carleton University's bachelor of journalism program. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com