Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs urges First Nations families to get their youngsters vaccinated ASAP

·3 min read

With COVID-19 vaccines now being made available to Indigenous children five and under across Manitoba, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) is urging families to make sure they do what they can to get children vaccinated as soon as possible.

On July 14, Health Canada approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children six months to five years of age, and plans to roll out the vaccine to children in Manitoba were announced at a press conference in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

During the announcement it was revealed that although there are 76,000 additional Manitoba children now eligible for vaccines in that age group, there will be 14,900 doses coming to Manitoba as part of the first shipment of the vaccine, and the process will begin by prioritizing the vaccine for certain groups, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children five and under, “regardless of where they live.”

With vaccines now expected to arrive in the province next week and Indigenous children now being prioritized in the roll out in all corners of the province, AMC Acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean said parents and guardians should now find ways to see that children in that age group are vaccinated to keep both themselves and their fellow community members safe.

“We must remember the importance of doing our part to protect our families, nations, and those most vulnerable around us,” McLean said in a statement. “We encourage families to speak to their local healthcare professional with any questions or concerns.”

McLean also spoke about why getting readily available vaccines into First Nations communities is so important for the health and safety of those communities.

“Due to overcrowded housing, lack of clean water supply, inadequate supply of nutrition, and the health care resource crisis for First Nations citizens, there is an over-representation of First Nations citizens contracting and having higher rates of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19,” he said.

“Expanding the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include children aged 6 months to 5 years old will help protect our most precious and vulnerable First Nations demographic.”

McLean added that as an organization they have always encouraged citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and will now continue to encourage it for their youngest citizens.

“Vaccination is one of the ways we can protect our families, nations, and ourselves against COVID-19, by preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death,” McLean said.

The first doses were expected to arrive by the end of this week, and will be shipped to various sites across the province, including regional vaccine sites, public health offices and medical clinics, and the province said they would be working with First Nations leadership and organizations to co-ordinate distribution to communities.

As part of the initial roll out, the province will also prioritize children that have certain medical conditions, including lung disease, congenital or chronic heart or circulatory diseases ,as well as diabetes and other medical conditions.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Manitoba's chief public health officer Brent Roussin said the province expects to expand vaccine eligibility for kids five and under in the coming weeks, and that a second vaccine shipment is expected in late July or early August.

The Winnipeg Sun reached out to the province this week seeking additional information on how the vaccine will be rolled out and administered in First Nations communities, but did not get a response before Friday’s press deadline.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting