Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in Manitoba this week and 5,300 of the 7,300 will be made immediately available to First Nations.
The Government of Manitoba has been working collaboratively with First Nations health experts to deploy the first shipment of the vaccine to the province’s northern and remote communities.
“The successful collaboration between the province and First Nations health experts and representatives will ensure equitable access to vaccination treatments for all Manitobans,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical officer of health, Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living in a press release.
“Our shared priority is to distribute vaccine doses, beginning with the Moderna vaccine to protect vulnerable First Nations populations in northern and remote regions of the province.”
According to Reimer, the Moderna vaccine is more appropriate for delivery to northern and remote communities compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which has special storage and transportation requirements.
The province has already informed First Nations health experts as well as leaders from the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team and the Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM) Inc. about their provincial planning.
“We are pleased with the partnership and spirit of collaboration that has developed and will continue as the delicate decisions around the deployment of this vaccine are made,” said Dr. Barry Lavallee, appointed health lead MKO, CEO of KIM.
“It is important that Indigenous voices are heard. As Indigenous health experts, we are at this table in support of First Nations people. We are needed at the table. This is a very historic work. If the dialogue aids in creating a sense of partnership between First Nations and the provincial government as this process moves forward, that too will benefit everyone.”
Experts in First Nations health were asked by the province to identify and prioritize which northern and remote communities should be designated to receive the first limited doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The Manitoba government will arrange for planes to be available to ship the vaccine to these priority locations.
The province has also offered joint training for First Nations immunization teams, access to its best practices and guiding documents, and has also agreed to collaborate on a promotional campaign on immunization.
“First Nations are the most vulnerable demographic in the province. Before the vaccines were allocated, we stood up and made sure that people knew Indigenous populations had to be prioritized because of the outcomes we were seeing,” said the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels on Monday.
“Luckily, the province was able to understand from a medical point of view that First Nations were more vulnerable to COVID-19 and therefore, we had to work together to create better outcomes for Indigenous peoples.”
As of Monday, there have been 2,182 active COVID-19 cases among First Nations on-reserve and off-reserve in Manitoba with 17 in intensive care units.
By March 31, 228,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be allotted to Manitoba based on a federal per capita allocation.
Manitoba has successfully secured an additional 9,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 because of its high number of Indigenous population.
While it is still unclear exactly which First Nations communities will be receiving their first doses, a dedicated Thompson vaccination site has been established to service northern and remote First Nation community needs.
— Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun