Immunization teams will visit Manitoba First Nations to vaccinate entire communities at once, with those at most risk of flooding and fires or losing winter road access prioritized.
This will be done so communities that could be affected by spring or summer emergencies do not have such issues compounded by a potential COVID-19 outbreak, health officials said Friday morning.
Communities at risk of losing winter road access or where access is across a waterway will be also be prioritized.
“We know First Nations people in Manitoba are more at risk of COVID-19 and at younger ages. In addition, many of these communities may face evacuation due to fires and floods or have geographical issues that make it hard to get there,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead of the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team.
“It’s important to get needles into arms as soon as possible and detailed planning is now underway to schedule vaccinations in these communities.”
Manitoba hopes to have all eligible adults in First Nations communities receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines by mid-May, officials said Friday morning. These vaccinations will get underway in mid-March.
The next communities to receive widespread immunizations will be those that have experienced significant outbreaks and high fatality rates due to COVID-19, a news release said.
In total, clinics will be set up at 63 First Nations communities, six northern rural municipalities and 47 Northern Affairs communities. Northern Affairs communities are adjacent to First Nations and include Métis, First Nations and non-Indigenous people, Anderson explained.
Right now, the plan is to use the Moderna vaccine for all of these sites.
Each community will be contacted directly about when they will receive their vaccine shipments. Some will be able to start immunizing people using their own teams, Anderson said.
More details on how the rollout will work should be released next week, she said. Communities in both northern and southern Manitoba will be included in the initial vaccine shipments.
“We want to ensure that our southern First Nation communities are hearing the message that … they don’t need to wait for the entire north to be done before they get access to vaccine,” she said.
As of Friday, more than 9,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given to First Nations people in Manitoba, Anderson said.
“We have had anecdotal reports that uptake has been very good among the elders and community who have been eligible to date, and we look forward to working collaboratively with our partners to continue to produce and refine data on the vaccination uptake in coverage,” she said.