For immediate release
December 9, 2020
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement to provide updates on the first distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Manitoba. MKO represents and advocates on behalf of Northern First Nations in Manitoba.
Today we learned that the first shipment of the vaccine will arrive in Manitoba. There will be enough to vaccinate about 900 people. We have learned from the province’s media activities that Manitoba will deliver vaccines to “priority populations” as follows:
- health care workers most directly involved in the COVID-19 response;
- seniors in congregate living settings such as long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and chronic care hospitals;
- older adults starting at 80 years of age and older; and
- adults at risk in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.
Grand Chief Garrison Settee shared the following:
“Today we are pleased to hear that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in Canada. Knowing there is a vaccine on the way for this deadly virus is a ray of sunshine for people across the country at the end of a very difficult year.
We look forward to having access to a vaccine that can help us resume some of our regular activities in a safe manner. We are seeing the impact that COVID-19 has on our remote communities right now as Shamattawa First Nation struggles to respond to a significant amount of its population testing positive for COVID-19. We absolutely need the vaccine as soon as we can get it.
As the representative for Northern First Nations, I continue to be concerned about the lack of direct communication and engagement we receive from both the province and the federal government on the issue of the vaccine distribution strategy. Last week we shared our concerns with Dr. Theresa Tam and we have also written to the Premier to advise him that we do require First Nations expertise to have a seat at the table when it comes to Manitoba’s Task Force on COVID-19. We have not received any invitation to provide our expertise at the national or provincial level to date. This is a mistake.
We continue to urge the federal and provincial governments to include us in planning for the distribution of the vaccine. We need clarity on which adults will be deemed “at risk” in our communities—who determines which factors make an Indigenous person “at risk?” This is an area where First Nations health experts should absolutely be providing guidance. We do not have any information on when and where the vaccine may be available in Thompson and other Northern hubs such as The Pas. We will continue to advocate for the vaccine to be available in these locations as soon as possible. We will also advocate for First Nations people to receive training to deliver the vaccines to our communities.
As I have previously stated, it is essential that the Premier communicate transparently on the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine. First Nations representatives from both the North and South must be involved in the planning for the distribution of the vaccines as there are severe outcomes for First Nations people who have COVID-19 in Manitoba. As leaders, we must work together in unity and we must do this on an urgent basis. Our citizens are depending on us to work together. ”
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that has represented 26 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1981. The MKO represents more than 72,000 First Nations people.