Joni Wilson, Director, Pandemic Response, Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin

Joni Wilson, Director, Pandemic Response, Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin

As the Director of Pandemic Response for Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc. (KIM), I’ve worked in partnership with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) to support northern First Nations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

KIM has been an active member of the First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team (PRCT), and more recently provided representation at the First Nation Vaccine Implementation Task Force (VITF). Much of my time has been focused on collaborating with fellow First Nation leaders, the provincial and federal governments, and others to plan, prepare and rollout vaccines for First Nations. 

With all the impacts of the pandemic on First Nation people in Manitoba, it’s crucial that everyone receives the vaccine as soon as possible. We’ve seen the devastating impacts firsthand in several of our northern communities once the virus gets into a community, which are compounded due to such issues as overcrowded housing, lack of access to clean water, and other already-compromised social determinants of health. Leaders, healthcare experts, and citizens in the First Nations have been working diligently to keep their communities safe — and I applaud their great accomplishments.

Reaching herd immunity through vaccination while maintaining public health measures is our best approach to prevent serious health impacts, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. Vaccine hesitancy remains a serious concern, but I hope through our collaborative efforts with our various partners, that people will access the information they need to make a positive and informed decision about getting vaccinated. 

Through my line of work and in my personal life, I know far too many people who’ve contracted the COVID-19 virus, and have seen the devastation it can cause — from long-term side effects, to those in the ICU fighting for their lives — and those who’ve died due to severe complications from the virus. Receiving the vaccine can eliminate these outcomes, and I hope that everyone chooses the path to vaccination.

I had the opportunity to get vaccinated and appreciatively got immunized to remain healthy, to continue with the important work that we do, and as an added line of defence to protect myself and my family. My 19-year-old son was born with complex congenital heart disease which puts him at high risk of the severe outcomes of COVID-19. Choosing to get vaccinated was that extra layer of protection to help decrease the odds of my son becoming dangerously ill. Fortunately, he, too, became eligible for the vaccine via our First Nation’s recent rollout, and thankfully he received his first dose. Despite a little bit of soreness around the injection site and some slight chills for myself, getting the vaccine was an easy experience for us both. 

I encourage everyone who is eligible to get their COVID vaccination. It would be great for all Manitobans to reach the herd immunity needed, and reduce the serious impacts of this virus, so we can all return to living normal lives again.


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Dr Dan Hunt, Family & ER doctor at Boundary Trails Hospital

Dr Dan Hunt, Family & ER doctor at Boundary Trails Hospital

As an emergency room doctor, the first half of the pandemic was the most stressful for me because there was no vaccine. I did not know how many times I would be exposed to COVID every day at work. I worried that I would become ill with COVID, or even worse, that I would bring it home and make my wife ill. Even as a healthy 36-year-old, I know that COVID could have put me in the ICU or killed me. 

I wear a mask and eye protection at work, I sanitize my hands and social distance every time I’m out. However, as good as these fundamentals are at preventing infection, they’re not perfect, which is why I got vaccinated. 

Now that I’ve been vaccinated, I feel safe at work again. I know I’m protected and that I’m protecting others. I became eligible for vaccination on Christmas day, which was the best present I’ve ever received, and I phoned in immediately to book my appointment. I didn’t feel any side effects afterwards. I’m very grateful to all the immunizers at the vaccine site, as well as the thousands of people worldwide who were involved in developing the vaccines, testing the vaccines, and distributing them to the over 1.2 billion people like me who have been lucky enough to get a vaccine into their arm.

I’ve also seen the harms of vaccine misinformation. Most of the people I’ve admitted to Boundary Trails in this 3rd wave were eligible for the vaccine, but chose not to get it. I think they are as much victims of misinformation as they are victims of COVID. They could have prevented hospitalization, and risk of death, by getting a free vaccine that is available to Manitobans. It has been especially sad when I needed to intubate unvaccinated people and send them to ICU, knowing there’s a good chance they will not survive, knowing they could have been saved by a vaccine that was available to them. Honestly, it just feels so tragic. 

I ask anyone who is eligible for a vaccine to please get vaccinated as soon as possible. It will protect your family, your community and you! Vaccines are the only way we will get back to normal, reopen businesses, and get people back to work. COVID poses a real and immediate danger, living unvaccinated amidst a pandemic is far riskier than any of the vaccines. Your risk of being seriously harmed by a COVID vaccine is less than your lifetime risk of being struck by lightning. Compare this to COVID, which has already killed over 1,000 Manitobans, and will kill more before it is through.

As an emergency room doctor, the first half of the pandemic was the most stressful for me because there was no vaccine. I did not know how many times I would be exposed to COVID every day at work. I worried that I would become ill with COVID, or even worse, that I would bring […]

Danny Hutchinson, Post-Secondary Administration & Teulon Rockwood Firefighter

Danny Hutchinson, Post-Secondary Administration & Teulon Rockwood Firefighter

When I think about this past year and all the ways COVID has impacted my family’s life, I really do feel the worst for our kids. My wife and I have ten-year-old twins – a son and a daughter – and they’re both starting to go a bit stir crazy at home and really miss their friends.

Both our kids are in hockey and our daughter is in dance. Hockey was paused at the end of 2020, and cancelled for good in February.  My daughter’s dance classes were moved to Zoom for most of the season and this weekend should have been her dance recital.  Everyone is doing the best they can but they’ve missed out on a lot.

It’s those things that make the vaccine rollout the most exciting because it means we can start thinking about when this will all be over. I was very happy to receive my first vaccine about a week ago and my wife has received her first dose too. I received mine at a pop-up clinic on Notre Dame Avenue and the staff made everything really easy.

I arrived at 11:30 am, waited outside for five minutes and then I was brought in to go through the standard screening, identification and consent steps. After that I got my shot within about five minutes and, other than waiting for the fifteen minutes they ask you to stick around for observation, I was done. It was really well organized with a lot of focus being given to social distancing, which was great to see.

I didn’t experience a lot in the way of side effects, only a bit sick to my stomach the day after. For my wife, she had a bit of a headache but there really wasn’t anything worth mentioning for either of us.

Although I think the kids have had the hardest time, my life has definitely seen its fair share of changes over the past year. When the COVID restrictions started last March, I was working at Red River College as an instructor in math and science for trades. We transitioned to working from home right away, with classes put on hold for a week and then we went right into online instruction. It was a really steep learning curve to get things up and running but we have an incredible team at the college with departments and colleagues all working together to make things happen. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like working from home at all at first. Like so many people I was parked at the dining room table at first and I really miss the everyday interactions with colleagues and friends.

Classes ended in June and then I transitioned to a different job at the college coordinating teacher and student schedules. It was definitely a crazy time to start that position given all the scheduling challenges related to COVID-19, but we’ve been able to make a hybrid model work with onsite shops and labs, combined with at-home online courses for theory.

On top of all that, I’m an on-call firefighter with the Teulon Rockwood fire department. As a group, we knew a COVID outbreak in our team would put the community at risk so we spend a lot of time focusing on using masks and cleaning procedures to keep everyone safe.

We’ve done the best we can to make things work both personally and professionally, but I really hope the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel. For anyone hesitant about receiving it, I think we deal with a certain amount of risk every day no matter what we do, and the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the cons.

But even when we all eventually get the vaccine, I think life will be different as a result of everything we’ve gone through. I think we were caught flat-footed on a global scale in how to deal with the pandemic and it’s experiences like these that will help us do better in the future.

When I think about this past year and all the ways COVID has impacted my family’s life, I really do feel the worst for our kids. My wife and I have ten-year-old twins – a son and a daughter – and they’re both starting to go a bit stir crazy at home and really miss […]

Devi Sharma, Speaker of Winnipeg City Council, Councillor for Old Kildonan

Devi Sharma, Speaker of Winnipeg City Council, Councillor for Old Kildonan

I am pleased that Winnipeg’s second COVID-19 vaccine Super-Site is now open at 770 Leila Ave (Winnipeg Soccer Federation North). North Winnipeg was a high-risk area throughout this pandemic, so it’s all the more meaningful to see this Super-Site open in our neighbourhood.

In early April, I took my parents to the RBC Convention Centre Site to get vaccinated. Booking their appointment was easy, and I can gladly report that the only side effects they felt was some arm soreness, and an abundance of hope for our future!

Witnessing this moment filled me with tremendous gratitude for the scientists who developed these life-saving vaccines, the frontline healthcare professionals administering them, and the Vaccine Implementation Task Force coordinating their distribution. Vaccines are our best hope to overcome this pandemic and get back to the things we enjoy.

I eagerly look forward to my own vaccine appointment in mid-May at the new Leila Ave Super-Site. It’s important for all of us to do our part and protect each other by getting vaccinated. Many of us can also help family members and neighbours learn more about the vaccines and book their appointments.

Every vaccine approved by Health Canada is safe and effective. Whether it’s at a Super-Site, pharmacy, or medical clinic, I encourage each of you to book your vaccine appointment once you’re eligible and inspire others to do the same.

I am pleased that Winnipeg’s second COVID-19 vaccine Super-Site is now open at 770 Leila Ave (Winnipeg Soccer Federation North). North Winnipeg was a high-risk area throughout this pandemic, so it’s all the more meaningful to see this Super-Site open in our neighbourhood. In early April, I took my parents to the RBC Convention Centre […]

Additional Resources

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine from official sources.