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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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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