First Nations in Saskatchewan can expect regular shipments of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks, after the provincial and federal governments penned an agreement to coordinate vaccine delivery.
The province will give 14 per cent of its vaccine supply to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), which will work with the Northern Inter-Tribal Authority (NITHA) to distribute the vaccines to reserves.
The supply will include 20 per cent more vaccines than needed for on-reserve populations to account for people who live off-reserve but come home to get vaccinated, the province said in a news release.
“No First Nations individual who is eligible and wants a vaccine can be missed — no matter where they live,” Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller said in the release.
The agreement goes into effect April 5 and will last a year.
ISC and NITHA will have their own booking system and will work with First Nations leaders to establish vaccine clinics. The agencies will follow Saskatchewan’s phased approach to vaccinations, the province said.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) praised the plan for “an effective and culturally supportive vaccine campaign in First Nations communities.”
“We’re breathing a sigh of relief with this announcement and welcome the news that all of our community members will have vaccines made available to them,” FSIN vice chief David Pratt said in a statement.
Meadow Lake Tribal Council chief Richard Ben said COVID-19 variants are a major concern for First Nations communities.
“This will help ease some of the worries that our members currently face,” he said in a statement.
Some of Saskatchewan’s first vaccines were made available to northern and remote communities.
“We are very pleased to take this additional measure with this agreement to further protect First Nations residents through this collaborative approach to vaccine delivery,” Saskatchewan health minister Paul Merriman said in a news release.