Incentives and signed consent: Sask. First Nation raising the bar for COVID-19 vaccinations

·4 min read
A young girl poses with a sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine dose at a clinic within Lac La Ronge Indian Band. (Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band - image credit)
A young girl poses with a sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine dose at a clinic within Lac La Ronge Indian Band. (Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band - image credit)

Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Northern Saskatchewan has reached several milestones in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, even outpacing the province in some metrics.

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson told CBC News the band's six communities each have a target of 85 per cent vaccination for its eligible population, for all doses.

"We have a high number of people that are immunocompromised, so that's one thing that we looked at," Cook-Searson said.

"We also have overcrowding within our communities, so that's a reality."

As of Jan. 10, the community of Grandmother's Bay had 97 per cent of people 12 and older vaccinated with at least one dose, and 79 per cent with two.

In Stanley Mission, 94 per cent of people 12 and older had a first dose, and 89 per cent also had a second.

Cook-Searson said the numbers reflect the communities' efforts to rally around the vaccination campaign.

"Really promoting [the vaccine] and and saying that they're safe, going on the radio, doing radio ads in Cree and English. And we continue to do that," she said.

The chief credited the hard work of health-care workers, including public health nurses and those from local health services, who have stepped up to provide advocacy and awareness.

Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band
Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band

How it's going, what's working

The following is a breakdown of vaccinations for people 12 and older within the band's six communities, as of Jan. 10.

It only includes people who live and received their dose on-reserve:

  • Stanley Mission: 94 per cent first dose, 89 per cent second dose.

  • Grandmother's Bay: 97 per cent first dose, 79 per cent second dose.

  • Sucker River: 89 per cent first dose, 72 per cent second dose.

  • Hall Lake: 84 per cent first dose, 64 per cent second dose.

  • Little Red River: 66 per cent first dose, 66 per cent second dose.

  • La Ronge: 69 per cent first dose, 51 per cent second dose.

Cook-Searson noted vaccination numbers for Little Red River are likely higher than what's reported. The First Nation is just a 20-minute drive north of Prince Albert, which offered a COVID-19 vaccination by drive-thru early on.

As of Monday, at least 75 per cent of all Lac La Ronge Indian Band members 12 and older, were fully vaccinated.

Nationally, 87.93 per cent of all eligible Canadians — five and older — have received at least one dose. In Saskatchewan, that number is slightly lower at 85.65 per cent. The band could not provide local data for kids five to 11 years old, nor for booster doses, at this time.

Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band
Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band

Cook-Searson said incentives of cash and prize draws at vaccine clinics also helped boost numbers.

"In Hall Lake, it's 84 per cent for first dose and before the incentives, it was below 50 per cent," she said.

Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band
Submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band

"We did big draws, like for furniture and gift cards. So all kinds of different incentives."

Signed consent for kids

Cook-Searson said unlike the rest of the province, parents and guardians who live within the band don't need to accompany children ages five to 11 for a COVID-19 vaccine.

She said the move was authorized by the northern medical health officer.

"We just require a consent form, because we've seen it as a barrier to have to have parents or guardians there. So that's why we opted out," Cook-Searson said.

Parents or guardians still have the option to be at there for their child's immunization, with special family clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

With a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the Omicron variant, the band has reported disruptions to its in-school vaccination programs.

As of Monday, north-central Saskatchewan — which includes Lac La Ronge Indian Band — had 273 confirmed active COVID-19 cases. The government numbers do not include positive results from rapid antigen tests.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band has continued contact tracing within communities as another means to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Staff also provide support to community members who contract the virus. They call and also deliver groceries and cleaning supplies during isolation and recovery.

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