There is light at the end of the tunnel.

This is according to an Ile-a-la Crosse nurse who – along with her grandfather – was among the first residents of Saskatchewan’s Far Northwest region to receive doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m pretty excited to get the vaccine for sure, but I didn’t expect to be the first one in the Far Northwest to get it,” remarked Brittany Favel, a registered nurse at the hospital in Ile-a-la Crosse. “It was exciting yet nerve-racking because it’s a new vaccine and I didn’t know what to expect, but everything went totally fine.”

Favel received her vaccination Tuesday morning (Jan. 5) as did her grandfather, long-term care resident Jimmy Favel. Vaccinations also started in La Loche that morning as part of the rollout in the Far Northwest zone. The province also expected a shipment of vaccines to be received in other communities this week including Meadow Lake.

Favel said she was recently approached by one of the lead physicians at the hospital about being the first health care worker in the region to be vaccinated. Because she had the opportunity to be vaccinated along with her grandfather, Favel said she didn’t think twice about accepting.

Also among those pleased with the latest development in the fight against COVID-19 is Ile-a-la Crosse mayor Duane Favel who is also Brittany Favel’s uncle and Jimmy Favel’s son.

“The COVID vaccine came in Monday (Jan. 4) and they have started to vaccinate some of our long-term care residents, as well as some of our frontline workers within the facility,” the mayor stated. “They will be doing that for all our frontline workers in northern Saskatchewan, and all our long-term care residents. Once they get those people vaccinated, they have additional plans in terms of how to move forward.”

Duane Favel said the elderly will be vaccinated first, especially those who are vulnerable because of underlying health issues.

“This will be followed by the elderly who do not have health issues – people about 50 and up – followed by the general population,” he continued. “Like everybody else, we’re extremely happy to see the vaccine being rolled out in a timely manner.”

The mayor went on to note, however, there is still anxiety around the vaccine when it comes to some people.

“But, the communication being rolled out along with the vaccine will be extremely helpful in easing some of these anxieties,” he said.

Brittany Favel agreed.

“Hopefully this leads to a path where families can finally start visiting the long-term care residents again,” she said. “I’m really glad to be able to have the vaccine and get back to somewhat of a normal life. COVID-19 has caused a lot of emotional problems, so I am happy to move forward.”

As of Jan. 6, the Far Northwest’s sub-zone 1, which includes communities north of Meadow Lake, had 58 active cases whereas sub-zone 2, which includes Meadow Lake, there were 102 active cases. Overall, there are 2,893 active cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.

by Phil Ambroziak