The chief of the Long Plain First Nation says he is very concerned about the number of people in his community who are not getting vaccinated, and he worries that if the trend continues there could be a serious and deadly outbreak of COVID-19 among community members.
Earlier this week, Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches announced on his Facebook page that there are currently eight active COVID-19 cases in the community after he said they went more than forty days without any new cases.
Meeches said he is now concerned about further transmission in the community of about 4,600 band members, which sits near the city of Portage la Prairie, as their vaccination rates currently sit well below the provincial average.
Currently, only about 17% of Long Plain First Nation residents are fully vaccinated, according to Meeches, and he said those low numbers have nothing to do with supply or access, and everything to do with vaccine hesitancy.
“We still have low vaccination rates in Long Plain and I don’t exactly know why, but there is still a lot of distrust and hesitancy for whatever reason, and right now just 17% of residents are fully vaccinated, so that is really low,” Meeches said.
“We had really hoped by this time that we would have been at something like 80%, but it’s just really been a challenge to get people vaccinated.”
Meeches said that “rampant misinformation” is one of the reasons vaccinations rates remain so low in the community.
“There is so much misinformation everywhere and that breeds that mistrust, and there is just so much misinformation on social media and people just buy into that, so there is a general fear out there,” he said.
“For the most part, people are just afraid of it.”
Meeches said that the community has been and will continue to hold regular drop-in vaccine clinics, with one clinic scheduled for next week, but even with the easy access they are offering to the vaccines he said there are still many who will not show up and get the shot.
Meeches added his main concern now is that further spread of COVID-19 could be inevitable if more Long Plain First Nation residents don’t get vaccinated.
“That is our fear,” Meeches said. “Health Canada and the World Health Organization have said there is that possibility of outbreaks happening in communities with low vaccination rates, and we are worried that is what we will start to see play out here.”
— 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