Fort Chipewyan sends surplus vaccines to Fort McMurray off-reserve members, include McMurray Métis

·2 min read

All Indigenous people in Alberta aged 49 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine, as long as they do not have a severe chronic illness.

When the vaccine rollout was in its early stages, some Métis leaders in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area worried they were falling through the cracks.

Phase 1 of Alberta's immunization plans left out many Métis elders not living on Métis settlements. Rural hamlets that were mostly Métis were also left out, since they were not considered Métis settlements by the Alberta government.

Now, Métis elders are pleased to be included in the current round of vaccination efforts. Peter Hansen, an elder with McMurray Métis, is looking forward to seeing his community and elders get vaccinated after a year of being “cooped up.”

“The more and more people who get the vaccine, it’s going to be great for everybody,” said Hansen. “We’re trying to get back together and just having coffee, tea and bannock. Just get out and socialize.”

Hansen received his vaccine on March 5 after Fort Chipewyan's leaders sent 287 unused doses to Fort McMurray. The community had a vaccine surplus which were about to expire, so leaders collaborated with the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) and Alberta Health Services (AHS) to get off-reserve members immunized.

The shots were administered and transported by AHS out of the ATC building in Waterways. President Kendrick Cardinal of Fort Chipewyan Métis Local #125 said leaders included McMurray Métis in this vaccination effort.

“Fort Chipewyan has a lot of members that moved to Fort McMurray,” said Cardinal. “That’s why we ended up going that route.”

Chief Peter Powder of the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) said leadership felt it was important to get the doses to off-reserve members before they expired.

“We care about our off-reserve people,” said Powder. “It was really successful. It was non-stop people coming through the doors to get vaccinated.”

In a March 5 statement, CEO of McMurray Métis Bill Loutitt said the Local is “beyond grateful” to have been included in Fort Chipewyan’s vaccine surplus.

“We look forward to getting the rest of our members and our staff fully vaccinated so we can all gather safely again as a strong, resilient and Indigenous nation,” said Loutitt.

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today