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First Nation, Métis leaders pushing past COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

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WATCH: The push to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates across Saskatchewan has been an uphill battle — especially in the north – Oct 1, 2021

While the Saskatchewan government is encouraging people to seek out their COVID-19 vaccine shots, Indigenous communities across the province are also putting in legwork to bridge that gap.

Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said much of the mistrust in vaccines for Indigenous folks is rooted in their horrific history with the Canadian government.

“If there’s any misconception that you feel or any history of mistrust which you are sensing — which we would never disagree with them,” Delorme said.

“We all know the history with Indigenous history and health has not been the best, but we tell them nobody has had long-term negative effects (from the vaccine).”

Read more: Saskatchewan’s proof of vaccination, negative test result policy now in effect

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At last check-in, Cowessess’s vaccination rate was near 60 per cent.

Thanks to a partnership with Indigenous researchers and health professionals, people with doubts can have their questions answered.

“We have addressed every misconception that was made as comments, to address it in the most professional way,” Delorme said.

Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) officials said their numbers are tracked as part of the whole province by the Saskatchewan government so they aren’t quite sure where they stand.

However, with $2 million in scholarships to be won along with plenty of other great prizes, the MN–S vaccine draw has proven to be a successful incentive program.

“We also encourage those who are unvaccinated to do the research and we have information available about the vaccines,” MN–S Health Minister Marg Friesen said.

Read more: Exclusive look inside Moderna — Tracking variants and the call for COVID-19 boosters

MN–S officials said that out of 20,000 eligible members, they have received more than 8,000 entries this month with more entries each day. The incentive program ends Nov. 26.

Delorme said community leaders and chiefs are participating in biweekly calls to compare notes and share support. He added it’s been very reassuring to have this kind of connection in the fourth wave of the pandemic.

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“This wave, Cowessess First Nation has felt the impact of this COVID-19 more than the other three. We have had a death. We have very important people in (intensive care units),” Delorme said.

A total of 1,563,252 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saskatchewan, the government’s dashboard showed. Of Friday’s 470 new cases, the provincial government said 385 were unvaccinated, which included 84 children under the age of 12.

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.

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For full COVID-19 coverage, visit the Global News coronavirus web page.

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