Emergency doses of Moderna vaccine airlifted to Cree community to fight outbreak

doses of Moderna

2) Eeyou Eenou Police Force officer Darryl Hughboy receives the vaccine. Ouje-Bougoumou’s police were among the prioritized group to be vaccinated. Photo courtesy: Harry Bosum


Two hundred doses of the Moderna vaccine were air-lifted by helicopter from the Cree community of Mistissini, 800 km north of Montreal to the neighbouring Ouje-Bougoumou Cree Nation to help battle a COVID-19 outbreak.

There are now 15 cases of COVID in the small community of just over 900 people.

The cases are believed to have originated from a New Year’s Eve party.

With cases in the nearby non-Indigenous towns of Chibougamau and Chapais, the Cree communities in the area have been on alert for the past month. The virus has now gotten in.

doses of Moderna
Sydney Coonishish gives thumbs up while receiving the Moderna vaccine in Ouje-Bougoumou. Photo courtesy: Harry Bosum

The doses for Ouje-Bougoumou arrived Saturday with vaccinations beginning with elders.

“In the old days when a camp would hear of another camp that was in need of help, they would do what they could to help them. Same applies today. It’s a tradition. It was the right thing to do,” Jason Coonishish, coordinator of pre-hospital and emergency measures in Mistissini said in a statement.

Vaccinations started in Mistissini last week.

The Cree government received 1,200 initial doses and decided to administer all in the community of Mistissini, due to its proximity to outbreak areas such as Chibougamau and nearby Lac St-Jean.

Mistissini completed administering 1,000 doses in their community and sent the remaining two hundred to assist Ouje-Bougoumou in their outbreak efforts.

The chief Mistissini told APTN News last week that he received the vaccine with zero side effects.

Harry Sharl is in charge of emergency measures in Ouje-Bougoumou.

Sharl told APTN in an online interview that elders, first responders, police, medical staff and essential workers such as daycare educators have received most of the 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Sharl said the remaining 90 doses are reserved for those 55 years and older and he confirms that so far no elders in the community have been infected.

doses of Moderna
Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) Abel Bosum (left) shares a fist pump with Jason Coonishish (right) after Coonishish delivers the 200 Moderna doses to Ouje-Bougoumou by helicopter. Photo courtesy: Harry Bosum.

One of those vaccinated was Grand Chief and Chairperson of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) Abel Bosum.

Bosum and his wife Sophie got the shot on Sunday.

“Sophie and I received the Moderna vaccine today at 2:00 p.m. in Ouje-Bougoumou. I am proud and delighted to announce that the COVID-19 vaccine has begun to arrive in Eeyou Istchee,” Bosum said in an online quote.

In all there are 30 cases of Crees in the area with COVID-19.

The Cree Nation Government will receive another 12,00O Moderna doses on Thursday for the remaining residents of the nine Cree communities.

Bosum told APTN he is not forcing people to take it but they should strongly consider it for the safety of the nation.

Reporter / Ottawa

Originally from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern coast of James Bay, Quebec, Jamie has lived in Ottawa since 2015. Trained in journalism at Carleton University, he has worked as a freelance print journalist and as a writer/researcher for the Cree unit of CBC North out of Montreal. Jamie was hired as the reporter/correspondent for the Ottawa bureau in October 2019.