The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) wants the federal government to give First Nations a realistic timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations so that their governments and health leaders can prepare.
The government announced on Thursday that the COVID-19 vaccines should be available for priority groups in early 2021. Yet, this is only an optimistic projection and specific details on the vaccines cannot be confirmed as of yet.
Priority groups will include seniors, people with serious medical conditions, essential workers and some Indigenous communities.
“The data is glaringly obvious and devastating,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels in a press release.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting our Anishinaabe and Dakota communities. Canada must prioritize our people to end this health care crisis that is impacting so many First Nation lives.”
As of Nov. 25, close to 20% of the province’s daily COVID-19 case counts were accounted for by First Nations people, with 28% in hospital and 42% in intensive care.
Southern First Nations communities have done their best during the COVID-19 pandemic by imposing strict lockdown measures. Drastic action was taken due to limited access to healthcare facilities on reserve and in remote communities.
“You’re seeing first-hand the grim reality of what centuries of colonization and systemic racism have done to our people and our communities,” said Daniels.
“Even before the global pandemic, equitable health care for Anishinaabe and Dakota peoples was never a priority for any order of government. Now, we are in the fight for our lives because of this neglect.”
Distribution of the vaccines will be done on the provincial level.
A provincial spokesperson noted that the province created a COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Task Force to plan for the arrival of the vaccines and the immunization campaign.
Manitoba has called on the federal government for a national standard on the distribution and allocation of COVID-19 vaccines.
On Nov. 3, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) published advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on populations for early COVID-19 immunization.
NACI’s recommendations are a starting point that will help inform federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments in making decisions around how to roll out vaccine programs once Canada has access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
“These recommendations are preliminary in nature,” a spokesperson from the Serving Health Canada and the PHAC told Winnipeg Sun.
“Final key populations for early COVID-19 immunization will be determined by NACI, once more is known about the vaccines for Canada and their delivery schedule. Allocations of vaccines and rollout will be determined by FPT governments, informed by NACI advice.”
In April, a study called Canada’s COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring Study was led by Impact Canada in partnership with the Public Opinion Research Team.
The study was conducted in eight waves to monitor knowledge, risk perceptions, and behaviour related to COVID-19.
Approximately two thousand Canadians were involved in the representative sample for data collection.
Three-quarters of respondents agreed that specific groups should be first to get a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in the context of limited initial supplies.
When asked which group should get the vaccine first, 57% responded with those with underlying medical conditions, 53% the elderly, 22% healthcare workers and 18% frontline and essential workers.
Few respondents noted that children, those in long-term care or nursing homes and hospitalized or ill individuals are among other populations that should receive the vaccine first should there be a shortage.
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.