OTTAWA-On February 23 Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) said in a press release there were 1,443 active COVID-19 cases in Ontario First Nations communities.
The release said ISC “was closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities nationwide.”
ISC is encouraging all Indigenous people to continue utilizing public health measures including physical distancing, wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and non-essential travel, staying home when sick, and keeping up with frequent hand washing, cough and surface cleaning and sanitization procedures in light of COVID-19 variants of concern, including United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), and Brazil (P.1) found in people in the country.
“The combination of all these public health measures are required to stop the spread of the virus,” the press release said.
ISC said preliminary evidence shows the UK variant can cause increased risk of transmission and disease may be more severe for those infected.
ISC data for Feb. 23 shows there have been 20,347 positive COVID-19 cases in Ontario First Nations communities, 1,443 of those are active. There have been a total of 220 death and 18,684 people have recovered.
In Nunavik, Quebec, there are a total of 40 confirmed positive cases in and all but eight have recovered.
As of Feb. 23, the Government of Nunavut reported 33 active cases in the Kivalliq Region. There have been a total of 351 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. 34 people have died.
More than 1.8 million Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were distributed across the country as of Feb. 18.
By Feb. 23, more than 103,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given to people in more than 449 First Nations, Inuit and Territorial communities.
The government has ramped up vaccine deliveries and expects 640,000 doses to get to Canada this week.
Canada continues to stay on track to receive 6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by the end of March.
Canada had negotiated an earlier delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech doses on Feb. 12, which means Canada hopes to recieve 2.8 million more doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine between April and June.
The change will help further the goal of having all of Canada’s 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech here before the end of September.
Canada also purchased 4 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine, bringing the total Moderna doses to 44 million.
Canada expects to receive 84 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by the end of September 2021.
“As we work to support vaccine administration in Indigenous communities, we are also supporting the vaccine roll out for Indigenous adults living in urban cities and towns across Canada. To this end, ISC is working closely with National Association of Friendship Centres, as well as provinces and territories, First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners, and other urban community service organizations to support planning efforts. This includes working to identify barriers, challenges and opportunities for increasing vaccine uptake and ensuring the vaccine is available in culturally safe and accessible locations,” the release said.
ISC knows vaccines are already taking place in some urban centres, like Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Whitehorse and clinics are in the planning stages in several others, including Saskatoon and Regina. Alberta and British Columbia governments are working with Indigenous partners and local provincial public health units to plan vaccine clinics in Friendship Centres where possible and other accessible locations.
Federal partners, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF),ISC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are working together and with communities, provinces and territories to assess community needs and supports as they arise. The CAF is currently in several First Nation communities, including Pimicikamak in Manitoba, Fort Nelson First Nation in British Columbia, Hatchet Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan and Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation in Ontario, helping to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and vaccine distribution.
On Valentine’s Day it was announced that 13 per cent of all doses administered in Saskatchewan have were administered in First Nations communities, and vaccine uptake is an estimated 75 per cent or more for the Saskatchewan First Nations communities.
In Ontario, Weeneebayko and ORNGE have taken the lead on Operation Remote Immunity, and are close to the end goal of having 70 per cent of Ontario’s northern First Nations community members vaccinated with a first dose.
In Nunatsiavut, Labrador, the second dose mass immunization clinic is complete across its five communities.
“While vaccination is underway, we continue to support communities facing outbreaks. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, ISC has been actively engaged with the province, the Northwestern Health Unit, Kenora Chiefs Advisory and the First Nation to ensure immediate measures are taken to reduce the chances of further spread. This includes assessing community needs, and facilitating supports to assist with the community’s response to the current outbreak,” the release said.
“Additionally, ISC continues to support Indigenous communities and the impacts of COVID-19 on their population through partnerships and other innovative solutions. In some communities, ISC is supporting community leadership on addressing gaps in mental health and substance use services. ISC also continues to support communities by actively sending personal protective equipment and vaccine administration supplies and working with community health services to provide surge capacity and testing.”