Additional 1,200 Moderna vaccine doses made available to Manitoba First Nations: Public health officials

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Manitoba public health officials have confirmed that an additional 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine have been made immediately available for further First Nations prioritizations

Doses will be provided to health-care workers in non-remote First Nations communities, First Nations alternative isolation accommodation (AIA) workers and traditional Healers and Knowledge Keepers.

“This is to ensure health care workers in non-remote First Nations communities can access appointments at the supersite even while the Pfizer vaccine is delayed,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, Public Health Lead for Manitoba First Nation Pandemic Response and Co-ordination Team (PRCT) during a press conference on Monday.

“Eligibility includes healthcare workers with direct patient or client interaction, such as doctors, nurses, healthcare aides, home care workers, medical transportation drivers, and other direct service providers.”

She added that First Nations AIA workers at sites managed or supported by First Nations organizations will also receive a part of the 1,200 doses.

In recognition of the essential role that they play in the First Nation health workforce, traditional Healers and Knowledge Keepers who do not meet the age criteria or who live off-reserve can also access the vaccination if they choose.

“We support the expansion of eligibility for the vaccination of First Nation people, especially for our Traditional Healers and Knowledge Keepers,” said Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels in a press release.

“The data clearly shows that First Nation people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, regardless of where they live. Therefore, all First Nation people must be vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible to ensure that we can protect our citizens and prevent the further spread of this deadly virus and the concerning new strains.”

The vaccines will be available through a pop-up site in Winnipeg as well as at hubs in Thompson, The Pas and Flin Flon. First Nations with larger numbers of eligible healthcare workers may get the doses shipped directly to their community.

This week, Churchill will begin to receive their first Moderna doses for residents of the Eldercare ward, Elders aged 70 or older, and health-care workers.

A Focused Immunization Team will also visit the KeKiNan Centre, an assisted-living facility for Indigenous seniors in Winnipeg, to offer immunization this week.

In the upcoming weeks, War Lake First Nation, York Landing, Thicket Portage, Pikwitonei, Lynn Lake and Marcel Colomb First Nation, Leaf Rapids and Fox Lake Cree Nation can expect to receive their first doses of the vaccine.

“The vaccine plan being announced today will ensure that First Nations people will have the maximum protection possible,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, Medical Lead for Manitoba’s Vaccination Implementation Task Force.

“As a whole, these initiatives will help ensure more Manitobans will have access to the vaccine in an equitable and timely way to protect those at risk.”

However, neither Anderson nor Reimer were able to disclose the exact dates as to when these communities will receive their vaccines or how many doses will be sent to these communities.

In Stage Two of the vaccine rollout, the province will begin offering vaccination to those over 80 years of age. As well, people who are 60 years or older will be able to access the COVID-19 vaccine.

This ensures that higher levels of risk experienced by First Nations people are addressed based on the epidemiological evidence and disproportional impact of COVID-19 on First Nations people in Manitoba.

As of Friday, First Nations people made up 73% of all presumed active cases in Manitoba and had an 18% test positivity rate.

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun