Some First Nations communities to receive Moderna Vaccine this week
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – First Nations in rural B.C. will receive COVID-19 vaccines this week.
According to the First Nations Health Authority, ten rural and remote First Nations in Northern B.C. will receive vaccine shipments starting December 28.
While the Health Authority hasn’t said publicly which First Nations would receive the first shipments, they said they are remote communities, have 24/7 primary care available, and staff can prepare an immunization program.
The coronavirus has disfigured Gallup, a small New Mexico town near Native American reservations that is now one of the hardest hit places in the country.
Perched between the Navajo Nation to the north and Zuni Nation to the south, almost half of Gallup’s residents are Native American, according to census data.
Native American communities have been particularly vulnerable to the virus, at one point accounting for nearly 40 percent of all cases in New Mexico, even though those communities make up less than a tenth of the state’s population. And some who have so far been spared by the virus are nonetheless reeling from the consequences of the economic slowdown.
Hit hard by COVID-19, some tribal members are hesitant to get a vaccine
Though tribal communities have been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19 nationwide, Passes is not alone in her reluctance. As tribes begin to receive and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, many tribal members hesitate to get immunized.
Some people fear Indigenous populations will be used as guinea pigs, while others are reluctant to trust the Indian Health Service. Some feel invincible, as tribes have survived devastating diseases, such as smallpox, and violent massacres. Many would prefer to wait and observe the effects of the vaccine as more people receive it.
Experts say the skepticism is warranted as tribes have experienced disinvestment, incompetence and brutality at the hands of the federal government. The consequences of such neglect transcend generations and manifest today as systemic inequalities, many of which were further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paramedics head north to help First Nations with strained health systems
six Winnipeg paramedics have given up their days off and time with their families to volunteer in remote northern Manitoba communities where health services are being strained by COVID-19.
“We’re working with the staff up here, and I can’t say enough about the staff that’s accepted us up here. And I can’t say enough about the communities and the people of these communities that have accepted us. They understand we’re here to help,” said Ryan Woiden, one of six advanced paramedics who left the city on Dec. 27 and will return on Dec. 30.
“We’ve just been given tasks, anything that, you know, when it gets a little overwhelming, we’re there to help relieve some of that pressure.”
‘The value of your elders’: First Nation using youth to spread COVID-19 message
“They have an extremely high language retention, even though we’re very, very close to a major city,” said Robb in an interview. “Quite quickly we realized we needed to get our information out in Stoney as well as English.”
Robb said that included messages from chief and council played on the radio in both languages and a large digital billboard that flashes bilingual information along the road into the community
Audio files have also been created that can be downloaded onto phones.
“We made it in a very simple, small, downloadable file,” Robb said. “We translated it into Stoney and I can take my phone to go see my grandmother to play it in Stoney, so she may understand.”
The Alberta government has recognized that many COVID-19 hot spots in the province share similar circumstances with First Nations, so outreach teams are going into communities to get the message and resources out.
“These hardest-hit neighbourhoods tend to be lower income areas, where people naturally live in high density housing arrangements, sometimes with multi-generational families that can make it very difficult for family members to self-isolate effectively if needed,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said earlier this month.
“Many of these families also have English language barriers, which in some cases makes it more difficult for them to obtain current and accurate health information and to access the social supports that are available to them.”