Vaccinations ramping up in Sask. Indigenous communities

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Tens of thousands of doses of vaccine have begun being distributed to Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Tens of thousands of doses of vaccine have begun being distributed to Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

New data provided by the federal government provides a better picture of efforts to vaccinate First Nations communities in Saskatchewan.

The latest data indicates that as of April 21, 2021, 20,797 vaccines have been administered at on-reserve clinics: 13,645 in First Nations in south and central Saskatchewan and 7,152 in Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) communities.

In 2016, the Indigenous population in the province was 175,020.

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Twenty-three vaccine doses have been allocated to First Nations for the month of April, and more than 37,000 are expected in May. The northern authority will receive 11,700 vaccinations and 25,740 will go to First Nations in south and central Saskatchewan.

Communities only began receiving the specifically allocated doses on April 6.

In Saskatchewan, vaccination of the province's on-reserve Indigenous population is the result of a partnership between Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), the provincial government and the NITHA.

The federal department will receive 14 per cent of the province's allocated COVID-19 vaccinations. They will also receive a 20 per cent increase over each community's population to account for off-reserve members who want to be vaccinated in their community.

Under the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination guidance, adults "in or from" Indigenous communities are a prioritized vaccination group due to the disproportionate consequences infection can have on Indigenous people.

The risk of severe COVID-19 appears higher in First Nations living off reserve compared to those living on reserve, the guidance says.

The provincial government is keeping track of how the province's vaccinations have been administered but initially refused to provide the data to CBC and referred requests to Indigenous Services Canada.

ISC provided the statistics but noted that the data is collected through the provincial vaccine administration system.