1,200 additional coronavirus vaccine doses available for Manitoba First Nations: health officials

Click to play video: 'Manitoba First Nations vaccine plan' Manitoba First Nations vaccine plan
The province revealed the vaccine plan Monday for Manitoba First Nations. – Feb 1, 2021

Health officials in Manitoba say an additional 1,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are now available for eligible First Nation people and communities.

The shots come on top of 5,300 doses already shipped to First Nations in January and another 5,300 doses expected to arrive in mid- to late-February.

Read more: First Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses coming to Manitoba First Nations this week, province says

The news comes as provincial and First Nations health officials gave an update on plans to vaccinate Manitoba’s First Nation communities Monday.

“First Nations people experience severe and significant effects of COVID-19, with an increasing proportion of cases and over-representation in hospitalizations, ICU admissions and death,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, vice dean, Indigenous health and public health lead for Manitoba First Nation PRCT, in a release.

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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Manitoba First Nations people over age 60 to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Stage 2 of rollout' Coronavirus: Manitoba First Nations people over age 60 to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Stage 2 of rollout
Coronavirus: Manitoba First Nations people over age 60 to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Stage 2 of rollout – Feb 1, 2021

“This means we need to ensure First Nations in Manitoba have access to the vaccine in an equitable and timely way – both to protect those most at risk, and to protect our health-care system from being overwhelmed.”

Anderson said the additional 1,200 doses have been made immediately available for three priority groups:

  • health-care workers in non-remote First Nations communities to ensure they are able to access appointments while the supply of the Pfizer vaccine is delayed at the super sites,including health-care workers with direct patient/ client interaction, such as doctors, nurses, health-care aides, home care workers, medical transportation drivers, and other direct service providers;
  • First Nations alternative isolation accommodation (AIA) workers at sites managed/ supported by First Nations organizations; and
  • Traditional Healers/ Knowledge Keepers, as they play a key role as part of the health workforce, to ensure those who did not meet the age criteria or who live off-reserve can also access vaccination if they choose.

The shots will be available at a pop-up site in Winnipeg, and also at hubs in Thompson, The Pas and Flin Flon, and health officials said doses may be shipped directly to communities where the number of eligible health-care workers is high enough.

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In early January the province said the first doses of the Moderna vaccine were being shipped to cover all 63 First Nations communities in the province.

Read more: Northern Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 immunization underway; chiefs describe some hesitancy

On Monday health officials said the doses have gone to health-care workers in remote and isolated communities, residents and staff at personal care homes or Elder Care facilities, people aged 60 and older in remove and isolated communities, and those 70 and older in non-remote communities.

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The additional 5,300 Moderna vials expected later this month will be used to give those already vaccinated their second doses, health officials said.

Younger First Nations to get vaccine sooner

Under broader plans announced Monday, health officials said younger First Nations people will be able to access the vaccine sooner, both on and off reserve.

For example, when the second stage of Manitoba’s vaccine rollout starts offering shots to people over the age of 80 — expected in March or April — Anderson said doses will be made available to First Nations people over the age of 60.

“Life expectancy for First Nations people is lower than for other Manitobans and the median age of severe outcomes is also much lower for First Nations people. And right now, First Nations people make up 50 per cent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and 40 per cent of intensive care unit admissions,” said Anderson.

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“We will address this by ensuring younger First Nations people have access to the vaccine sooner to address the higher risk to First Nations people.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg paramedics answer the call to help strained northern First Nations communities' Winnipeg paramedics answer the call to help strained northern First Nations communities
Winnipeg paramedics answer the call to help strained northern First Nations communities – Jan 11, 2021

First Nations people make up more than 70 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, Anderson said. They also account for 50 per cent of hospitalizations and 52 per cent of intensive care patients.

“This means we need to ensure First Nations in Manitoba have access to the vaccine in an equitable and timely way — both to protect those most at risk and to protect our health-care system from being overwhelmed,” Anderson said.

The average age of death from COVID-19 is 66 for First Nations members in Manitoba — 17 years younger than for non-Indigenous Manitobans. Overall, life expectancy for First Nations men and women is 11 years less than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

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Read more: Manitoba releases vaccination priority list, shots for the elderly could start in March

First Nations have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic’s second wave. The five-day test positivity rate amongst First Nations is 19 per cent. It’s 7.9 per cent provincially and 4.2 per cent in Winnipeg.

Meanwhile, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical officer of health and medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said the province is expanding its immunizations in the north, an area that continues to be a hotspot for the virus in Manitoba.

Of the 89 new infections announced in Manitoba Monday, 42 were found in northern Manitoba.

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Reimer said first-dose vaccinations will be available over the next two weeks for those living in Northern Affairs communities including War Lake First Nation/Ilford, York Landing, Thicket Portage, Pikwitonei, Lynn Lake and Marcel Colomb First Nation, Leaf Rapids and Gillam/Fox Lake Cree Nation.

First doses will also be available this week in Churchill to residents of the Elder care ward, Elders in the community aged 70 and over, as well as health-care workers.

Read more: Manitoba reports 3 additional coronavirus deaths, 89 new cases

An immunization team is also scheduled to visit KeKiNan Centre, an assisted-living facility for Indigenous seniors in Winnipeg, to offer first-dose immunizations this week, Reimer said.

Earlier in the day Monday, the Manitoba government said a total of 41,817 doses of vaccine have so far been administered across the province, including 32,461 first doses and 9,356 second doses.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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