The first shipments of the Moderna vaccine earmarked for Manitoba's 63 First Nations began rolling out of Winnipeg on Thursday.
A total of 5,300 doses were shipped to First Nations communities for immediate vaccination, and an additional 5,300 have been committed by the provincial government and will roll out the week of Feb. 23.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), the province, as well as Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), and Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) are working in collaboration to protect all First Nation peoples from the pandemic.
“We at the AMC, through our Pandemic Response Coordination Team, are pleased to make this announcement in collaboration with the Province of Manitoba,” said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas in a written statement. “This is just the start of the vaccine rollout, and we appreciate the patience of everyone in allowing our First Nations health experts to provide us with the necessary guidance in this endeavour.”
First Nation peoples have been identified by the provincial and federal government as among the first groups to get the vaccine.
As of Jan. 7, First Nations people represent 49% of all active cases in Manitoba with 66 in current hospitalization and 14 in intensive care units.
“The vaccine provides us with some hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we are hopeful that all First Nations people who want to receive a vaccine will be able to do so in the near future,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.
“My office will continue to work to ensure that MKO citizens can acquire one of the vaccines as soon as possible, and we will provide more detailed updates as they become available.”
The Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine have been approved for use across Canada, both of which require a primary shot followed by a booster shot.
The Moderna vaccine is considered to be more appropriate for northern and remote communities due to its much lower freezing requirements, making it more suitable for travel.
”This is a significant day in the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Treaty partners have responded to our urgent request for additional doses,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.
“We thank our Treaty Partners for responding to our urgent request to vaccinate our Elders as quickly as possible. We continue to mourn the loss of our beloved friends and family members who will never be forgotten."
Among the First Nation communities that will receive the first doses of the vaccine is the Pimicikamak Cree Nation (PCN), which will be receiving a total of 199 vaccines.
“We were initially expecting to get the vaccines for February 1st and we learned yesterday that we would be receiving the vaccines now for our Elders,” said PCN Chief David Monias. “I am ecstatic and very happy as this vaccine means we can better protect our knowledge keepers and our traditional teachers.”
20 vials are currently being shipped with each vial containing 10 doses. To those who are not interested in taking the vaccine, PCN will respect their opinions and not force it upon them.
“Over the next couple days, we will be actioning our plan for how we administer the doses and obtain consent,” said Monias.
“Our community’s pandemic team will work with the nursing station to make these arrangements. We will likely need to utilize the local nurses to assist in administering the vaccine.”
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