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Alexis Nakota Sioux Chief criticizes Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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WATCH (Jan. 15): Dr. Laura McDougall, senior medical officer of health at Alberta Health Services, said delays in shipments from pharmaceutical company Pfizer means some some health-care workers may not get their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and other people might have to wait longer to get their first shot – Jan 15, 2021

Alexis Nakota Sioux Chief Tony Alexis is criticizing the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Alberta.

In November 2020, The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released preliminary guidance on the key populations for early COVID-19 vaccinations, “for the efficient, effective, and equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccine(s).”

The NACI guidance came because of the limited supply of the vaccines which necessitates that there be “prioritization of immunization in some populations earlier than others.”

Read more: Coronavirus vaccines arrive in remote First Nations across Canada

The key populations in Stage 1 of the national vaccine rollout, which were identified by the NACI, are as follows:

Residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors.

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Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older, then decreasing the age limit by five-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available.

Health care workers (including all those who work in health-care settings and personal support workers whose work involves direct contact with patients).

Read more: Releasing more data around First Nations COVID-19 cases won’t combat racism: B.C. officials

And adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences.

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16.9K Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses heading to Alberta care facilities – Dec 29, 2020

On Jan. 19, Chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Tony Alexis, condemned the Alberta government for its handling and distribution of its COVID vaccines.

Read more: Maskwacis schools closed for the week to ‘control spread of COVID-19’

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“Provinces across Canada are following the NACI guidance and vaccinating Indigenous communities early, with other populations like the elderly identified as vulnerable,” said Chief Alexis.

“Meanwhile in Alberta, under Minister of Health Shandro’s watch, First Nation communities are seeing case numbers rapidly rise, while the rest of the Alberta COVID numbers decline.”

First Nations in Alberta have experienced the most on-reserve COVID cases in the entire country. At the time of writing, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) lists Alberta as having 4,086 confirmed cases within First Nations.

Read more: Blood Tribe in southern Alberta sees 14 cases of COVID-19, offers drive-up testing

A few days ago, it was also reported that Maskwacis has had a total of 1,573 cases — nearly 10 percent of its entire population.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine delay a ‘blow,’ will affect Alberta’s vaccine schedule: health minister

Chief Tony Alexis continued by saying: “After weeks of discussions and ‘consultation’ with Chiefs across Alberta, the government of Alberta deceived us and made special arrangements to distribute vaccines early to only one First Nation community. There was no direct communication for this action beforehand.”

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“This behaviour belittles First Nations people and is a tactic that has been historically used by the government to divide Indigenous people in an attempt to pit us against one another.”

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“Please know, my outrage is not directed to the community receiving the vaccine early; it is directed to Minister Shandro and the UCP government,” Chief Alexis emphasized.

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Coronavirus: Jason Kenney announces Alberta set to run out of COVID-19 vaccine supply – Jan 18, 2021

“I am tired of being consulted and urged to work together when it truly does not matter.

“The UCP government continues to leave us in the dark on issues that directly and disproportionately affect Indigenous people.”

The Chief ended his statement by urging Shandro that 10,000 doses would not be enough and that the provinces needs to comply with the NACI’s guidance.

Read more: Alberta set to run out of COVID-19 vaccine supply, first dose appointments no longer offered

Then on Monday, Premier Jason Kenney announced that the provincial government’s plan to vaccinate First Nations and Metis individuals aged 65 and older — which was expected to begin in February as part of Phase 1B of the rollout — has been put on hold until further notice.

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Alberta’s Phase 1A (goal of January 2021) includes respiratory therapists, health-care workers in intensive care units, staff in long term care and designated supportive living facilities, home-care workers, health-care workers in emergency departments, all residents of long term care and designated supportive living, regardless of age, health-care workers in COVID-19 units, medical and surgical units, and operating rooms, paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

“Timeline subject to change depending on vaccine supply,” the Alberta government website reads.

Phase 1B (goal of February 2021) includes seniors 75 years of age and over, no matter where they live, First Nations, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Metis Settlement.

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‘We are working hard to immunize Albertans as safely and effectively as possible’: Hinshaw responds to COVID-19 vaccine delay – Jan 18, 2021

“I know it is challenging to have to wait for this to start,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

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“While we cannot control the amount of vaccine available, we are working hard to immunize Albertans as safely and effectively as possible.”

Read more: Canada will receive zero Pfizer vaccine deliveries during last week of January

The man in charge of Canada’s coronavirus vaccine rollout logistics has confirmed that the country will not receive any Pfizer vaccine doses during the week of January 25, due to delivery delays that have hit countries around the world.

“We are now seeing that our entire expected shipment is deferred for next week, and then the numbers start to pick back up in the first weeks of February,” Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin said on Tuesday.

READ MORE: ‘Temporary delay’ chops Canada’s deliveries of Pfizer vaccine in half for four weeks

In a statement on Monday, Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson addressed the delay affecting the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations:

“We appreciate the strong leadership exhibited by First Nations leaders across the province to cooperate with public health authorities in responding to this pandemic. We value the leaders’ input and measures taken to date by First Nations.

“Recently, we have heard from First Nations leaders concerned about the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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“The four First Nations at Maskwacis are currently experiencing a serious rise in cases. Recognizing this, a limited number of doses were provided to Maskwacis Health Services on an emergency basis to help manage a large COVID-19 outbreak.

“Alberta’s government recognizes that First Nations are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why First Nations are prioritized in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout, so that any First Nation person over the age of 65 is included in the first phase compared to those over the age of 75 in the general population.”

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Coronavirus: Pfizer to defer all COVID-19 vaccine shipments to Canada week of Jan. 25 – Jan 19, 2021

“I have spoken to many First Nations Chiefs to assure them that we want to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible.

“Unfortunately, due to delays caused by the vaccine manufacturer and a lack of supply from the federal government, the rollout to First Nations communities has been delayed.

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“We renew our call on the federal government to speed up the process of providing vaccines. Canada is now receiving less vaccines than other countries. This is not acceptable,” Wilson said.

— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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