COVID-19 roll-out no word on when it will hit Indigenous communities

By Victoria Gray
Writer
COVID-19 vaccinations are staring to roll out across Canada for front line healthcare workers this week with Ontario set to receive 90,000 in the coming weeks.
Six Nations says it could be be several weeks before the community has access to the vaccines.
A statement Tuesday said the “community based COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force team is working with all available information and engaging in a fulsome planning process that is reflective of rapidly evolving planning that is happening Federally and Provincially.”
The statement said timelines are unclear as to when the vaccines will be available for roll-out at the community level therefore Ohsweken Public Health is not aware of any Six Nations community members who are eligible, this early in the rollout.”
Ohsweken Public Health is receiving requests from the community regarding how they can access the vaccine, but it is too early to direct them, the statement said.
The Canadian and the provincial governments dolled out the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to front line health care workers. Five of those in Toronto and some in Ottawa on Monday, but Indigenous populations, although put on the vulnerable population list on December 7, have not been given vaccinations or a date they may receive them.
Prime Minster Justin Trudeau addressed the nation Tuesday morning and announced that in addition to the 268,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations, the Moderna vaccination is in the approval process by Health Canada regulators and Canada will receive 168,000 doses of that vaccination before the end of December, if approved. Those doses are part of a guaranteed 40 million doses secured by the federal government. Trudeau said those could arrive within 48 hours of approval.
“The regulatory process is ongoing. Again I want to assure Canadians every vaccine approved in Canada is safe and effective. This news means we can make further progress to protect Canadians.” Trudeau said. “No one and no community will be left behind. We have a plan to reach everyone who wants a vaccine.”
Northern Indigenous communities will not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because it must be kept at -70 to -80C and the shipping and logistical concerns make getting that vaccine to people difficult. The Moderna vaccine can be stored at -20C and Trudeau said the first doses will be directed to northern regions, remote regions and indigenous communities.
Commercial-grade refrigerators have already shipped north to prepare for the two-dose vaccine.
“We are working to ensure the logistics planning is ready when vaccines are available, and have already shipped medical-grade freezers to the north. As soon as we get the green light, we’ll be ready to go,” Trudeau said.
The PM did not mention specific Indigenous communities.
Next week Canada will get 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and will have 70 sites ready to give those vaccines. That’s up from 14 sites this week.
Premiere Doug Ford also held a briefing on Tuesday, but did not mention Indigenous communities in his conference and focused on providing vaccinations to other vulnerable populations including front line heath care workers, longterm care facility residents and their employees. He said Ontario will receive 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the next two to three weeks and have 19 sites to administer it.
“We will have more demand than vaccine. It so much depends on supply. We remain committed… We will vaccinate as fast or faster than supply arrives to us,” General Rick Hillier, who is overseeing the vaccination rollout said.
MPP Will Bouma said in an interview Tuesday morning that he doesn’t know when people on Six Nations may see a vaccine and believes it all depends on how quickly vaccines can roll out, but he’s in awe of how the community and the SNEC is handling the situation.
“I’ve been so impressed by how seriously and how the SNEC and the whole community has taken care of the elders. That has been a wonderful thing for me to see and a learning experience… It’s a model of how we should all be taking care of the vulnerable in our community,” he said. “The only other thing is to give encouragement to our community at large, if everyone can do their part- social distancing and masks when appropriate and not just to not have further retractions on businesses and families, but to keep families safe and to keep the entire community safe.”
Both the premiere, Minister of Health Christine Elliot and the PM urged people to spend Christmas with members of your immediate household and said next year will be different.

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