First Nations vaccination visits to start mid-March

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Vaccination teams will begin visiting First Nations communities in Manitoba in mid-March, public health officials announced Friday.

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This article was published 06/03/2021 (524 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Vaccination teams will begin visiting First Nations communities in Manitoba in mid-March, public health officials announced Friday.

“We know that First Nations people in Manitoba are more at risk for COVID-19 and at younger ages,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead for the First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team. “In addition, many First Nations communities are at risk of evacuations due to fires and floods or have geographical access issues that make it harder to get there. It’s important that we get vaccines delivered into these communities and needles into arms as soon as possible.”

According to Anderson, all eligible adults living in 63 First Nations communities who want to be vaccinated will receive their first shot by early- to mid-May.

Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead, Manitoba First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team speaks about COVID-19 vaccination initiatives and answers media questions during a COVID-19 live-streamed press conference at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg Friday. (The Canadian Press)

Because the province is unable to deliver personnel and supplies to all communities at the same time, Anderson said her team has developed an evidence-based way of determining the vaccine rollout’s sequence.

During these visits, all residents aged 18 and older will be eligible to be vaccinated, as the goal is to avoid making multiple trips to communities.

Those communities most at risk of flooding or fire as well as those with winter road access or can only be accessed across a body of water will be prioritized.

“This will ensure that communities most at risk do not see their spring and summer hazards compounded by the pandemic and leaving them more at risk from potential emergency situations or evacuations,” Anderson said. “This sequencing plan also takes into account the experience of outbreaks and deaths within the communities. We know that communities that have had higher fatality rates, outbreaks and lockdowns may be feeling pandemic fatigue more than others.”

Because of that, those communities with the highest number of deaths and outbreaks will be prioritized after those at risk from fire or flooding.

However, Anderson said there isn’t a severity gap between cases in northern and southern Manitoba and promised vaccination teams would be deployed in each of the province’s health regions this month.

Some First Nations in southern Manitoba may also be able to arrange for their residents to get vaccinated at a supersite if they don’t want to wait for clinics to be set up in their communities.

More complete details of this plan will be released to the public as early as next week, while communities will receive communications regarding the process over the next week.

The Moderna vaccine is being used for these vaccinations as doses are still viable up to a month after being removed from a freezer.

Some communities will receive their allotment of doses before extra human resources arrive and will be able to start distributing doses with their own resources as they wait.

Asked what the uptake percentage for vaccines has been like among First Nations people, Anderson said the province doesn’t yet have the ability to track it but anecdotal reports indicate uptake has been “very good.”

She did say that the number of First Nations people who have received at least one dose of vaccine has reached the 9,000-person threshold as of this morning.

Also present at the media conference was Vaccine Implementation Task Force medical lead Dr. Joss Reimer.

She said that First Nations communities in northern Manitoba will have the option of sending residents to the Vaxport in Thompson.

In a statement to the media, Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels applauded the announcement.

“This announcement is what we have been waiting to hear,” said Daniels.

“There are a lot of people to thank for today’s announcement, which will save lives and begin to end this pandemic. I personally want to thank our First Nation leadership, our health leaders, experts, and all frontline workers who have made today possible. I also want to recognize our Treaty partners for using an evidence-based approach to prioritize First Nations.”

» cslark@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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