A new campaign in Saskatchewan aims to encourage Métis citizens to roll up their sleeves.
This week Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) launched This is Your Shot, a COVID-19 vaccination incentive program that offers a variety of prizes to fully-vaccinated Métis citizens in the province.
"Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is our shot at getting back to the moments that matter most, like time spent with loved ones, attending live events and holding social gatherings," said MN–S president Glen McCallum in a press release.
The initiative's first important date is coming up this week with the early bird entry deadline on Saturday, while the grand prize final deadline to enter follows on Nov. 24.
In order to win any prizes, Métis citizens must have received both COVID-19 shots before the draw deadline dates, according to the MN-S website. The contest is open to Saskatchewan Métis citizens and citizens with applications in process, said the MN-S press release.
"There are low vaccine rates across the province in all Métis Nation regions," said Marg Friesen, MN–S minister of health, minister of finance and regional director for eastern region 3, in an interview with CBC Saskatchewan.
The incentive program was designed to address those low vaccine rates, according to the minister.
"We are quite optimistic on increasing the vaccination rates throughout the province among Métis communities."
191 prizes, including truck and pontoon boat
As of Thursday morning, 1,600 people out of potentially 22,000 Métis citizens have already entered the vaccine lottery since its launch on Wednesday, said Friesen.
"I think the uptake with this initiative is going to just increase daily and we'll have a considerable amount that are going to participate in the program."
All Métis citizens who are already fully vaccinated can enter the draw online for a chance to win one or more of the 191 prizes.
In addition to the early bird draw and the final grand prize, the incentive also includes weekly draws for other prizes, and 80 educational scholarships of $25,000 each for Métis citizens aged 12 to 30.
"My first reaction, I thought it was pretty crazy to see such extravagant prizes," said University of Saskatchewan student Autumn LaRose-Smith. The Métis woman is currently working on getting her Métis Nation–Saskatchewan citizenship.
"If people aren't vaccinated for, you know, just personal reasons and it's not medical, maybe this could be an influence, seeing that there's some really cool prizes that they could possibly win."
Another Métis student is not as optimistic about the potential effect of a vaccine lottery system.
"I just don't see it really encouraging the people to get vaccinated," said Mark Oldershaw, a 26-year-old law student at the University of Saskatchewan.
"People who are ideologically inclined to not get the vaccine, they're not going to do this lottery regardless. I think that the target that you're actually going to have is more or less just kind of encouraging people who are vaccine hesitant."
Besides the vaccine incentive draws, MN–S will also continue to run vaccination pop-up clinics throughout Saskatchewan, including at the Batoche Métis Fall Festival on Friday.
There are a variety of underlying issues why some people hesitate to get vaccinated, said Friesen, so providing information and access to COVID-19 vaccines are part of the solution.
"I believe that vaccine hesitancy is rooted in a lack of trust and knowledge and a lot of misinformation," she said.
"It's our role as a Métis government, who is responsible for Métis health and well-being in this province, that we provide the correct information."
Focus on youth
The focus on the youth population with educational scholarships and youth prizes is based on the lower vaccination numbers in the 12 to 29 age groups, said Friesen.
According to the Saskatchewan government's dashboard, 148,101 people in the province aged 12 to 29 are fully vaccinated as of Thursday, compared to 207,613 residents of Saskatchewan aged 30 to 49.
The educational scholarships targeting young Métis people are "really cool," said LaRose-Smith.
The University of Saskatchewan student hopes that all prizes "make a difference for people in terms of wanting to get vaccinated."
Oldershaw agrees in regard to the importance of getting young Métis people vaccinated.
"It's a good initiative to try and encourage folks to get vaccinated," he said.
"We need to protect our families, our culture, and this is how we do it, is getting vaccinated."