Canadian Government Update on COVID Vaccination of its Indigenous Population

Government of Canada COVID-19 Update for Indigenous Peoples and communities

From: Indigenous Services Canada

News release

February 17, 2021 — Ottawa, Traditional unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities across the country. Overall, case numbers continue to decline, with 1,383 active cases reported as of February 16, 2021. First Nation communities in the Atlantic region have not reported a new case since January 25.

With new COVID-19 variants on the rise, it is critical that everyone continue with physical distancing, wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and non-essential travel, staying home when sick, and keeping up with frequent hand, cough and surface hygiene. The combination of all these public health measures are required to stop the spread of the virus.

In First Nations communities, as of February 16, ISC is aware of:

  • 19,230 confirmed positive COVID-19
  • 1,383 active cases
  • 17,640 recovered cases
  • 207 deaths

There are a total of 47 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec, and all but 7 have recovered. As of February 16, the Government of Nunavut is reporting 23 active cases in the Kivalliq Region, and a total of 323 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the 323 reported cases, 299 people have recovered from the virus.

As of February 11, 2021, more than 1.4 million Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been distributed across the country. As of February 16, 2021, more than 83,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in more than 400 First Nations, Inuit and Territorial communities, reaching 27 per cent of the community adult population at a rate that’s over 6 times that of Canada’s. We expect that the number of communities with vaccinations underway will continue to increase in the coming weeks, as vaccine supply ramps up. Some people also report experiencing more side effects after the second dose. Side effects such as pain, redness or swelling where the needle was given, mild fever, tiredness, and muscle or joint aches  are to be expected, and often go away on their own without treatment. Though these side effects may be uncomfortable in the short term, they indicate that the body is building immunity. Receiving both doses is critical in ensuring maximum effectiveness of the vaccine.

Canada is expected to receive 6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by the end of March. Canada will now receive 2.8 million additional doses of Pfizer-BioNTech between April and June, and an additional 6.2 million doses between July and September than was originally scheduled. The Government of Canada has also purchased an additional 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, bringing the total number of secured doses to 44 million. Canada is now expected to receive 84 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by the end of September 2021.

A number of federal partners, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), ISC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, continue to work in collaboration with communities, provinces and territories in an effort to assess on-going community needs, and supports. Currently, the CAF is on the ground in several First Nation communities including the Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba, the Fort Nelson First Nation in British Columbia, the Hatchet Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation in Ontario to help communities manage COVID-19 outbreaks and vaccine distribution.

The Government of Canada continues to develop tools to assist health care providers, communities and partners in their efforts to encourage uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Public Health Agency of Canada recently released a new tool kit for health care providers to equip them with information and resources to help their patients and colleagues make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination. As well, ISC created public service announcement scripts on the COVID-19 vaccine in 17 different Indigenous languages for communities and groups to use in their outreach and engagement efforts.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s new guidance recommends that all Indigenous adults be prioritized for immunization. As we work to support vaccine administration in Indigenous communities, we are also supporting the vaccine roll out for  Indigenous adults living in cities and towns across Canada. To this end, ISC is working closely with provinces and territories, First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners, the National Association of Friendship Centres, and other urban community service organizations to support planning efforts. This includes working to identify barriers, challenges and opportunities for increasing vaccine uptake and ensuring the vaccine is available in culturally safe and accessible locations. Last week, a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination site in Winnipeg focused on immunizing First Nations health-care workers, knowledge keepers and traditional healers. In addition, the Government of Ontario announced, this past weekend, that Indigenous adults have been identified as a priority group for vaccination in Phase One. Some Aboriginal Health Access Centres across Ontario have already started rolling out vaccines, including at the Wabano Centre in Ottawa. The Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team in Ottawa is also starting their vaccination program this week.

ISC continues to support Indigenous communities impacted by COVID-19 through partnerships and other innovative solutions. In some communities, ISC is supporting community leadership on addictions and mental health gaps, in addition to working with federal and provincial partners to identify alternative isolation centres for community members that test positive. ISC also continues to support communities by actively sending personal protective equipment and working with community health services to provide surge capacity and testing.

More than $4.2 billion has been announced in COVID-19 support to Indigenous and northern communities and organizations, including $926.7 million for the ongoing public health response to COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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