COVID-19 Daily News Digest – December 29th, 2020
First doses of Covid-19 vaccine arrive in NWT
“Hiring, communications, and logistics are key activities that must be complete before immunization can begin to ensure a safe, equitable roll-out,” he said. “Priority residents will start receiving their first dose in January 2021.”
Enough of the vaccine is expected to arrive between January and March to vaccinate 75 per cent of the eligible population aged 18 years of age and older.
The Moderna vaccine requires two doses given four weeks apart for full immunization against coronavirus.
Green said on Dec. 23 that the territory anticipated the first shipment of 7,200 doses of the vaccine to arrive by the end of December, which would be enough for 3,600 residents to receive the needed two doses.
She added that the vaccine would initially be for people aged 18 and older, though the GNWT had stated in a release that Moderna was conducting additional studies in children 12 and older.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said on Dec. 22 that the first to receive the vaccine would be Elders, people with high-risk health conditions, essential frontline workers, and Indigenous people in remote communities.
Local firms work together to produce face masks to support Indigenous girls, Two-Spirit youth
All sales from a new collaboration between Freed & Freed (FREED) and Indigo Arrows will go towards Indigenous girls and Two-Spirit youth aged nine to 13.
Launched on Dec. 3, Indigo Arrows x aMASK by FREED produced a collection of face masks inspired by Indigenous artistry.
100% of the proceeds will go towards The Butterfly Club, an after-school program that functions as a safe space to support Indigenous girls and Two-Spirit youth.
“We had an idea to do a collaboration for our 100th anniversary,” said Marissa Freed, President of FREED on Monday.
“While looking for a designer to collaborate with, we wanted to make sure that it was with a local community member and that we were drilling into a
Manitoba slightly expands eligibility criteria for COVID-19 immunizations
Health-care workers at long-term care and acute care facilities, who were born by Dec. 31, 1964 and work directly with patients, are now eligible for the vaccine, the province said in its latest vaccine bulletin. The next immunizations will be given at the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus from Dec. 29-31.
The immunization clinic will move to the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg on Jan. 4, 2021. First-dose appointments for Jan. 4-10 are currently being scheduled, the bulletin said.
About 800 first dose appointments have been made so far and there remain roughly 5,000 appointments available, the province said.Once people receive their first dose of the COVID-19 at the convention centre, second-dose appointments will take place from Jan. 25-31. The province says the phone line to book vaccine appoints is open to eligible health-care workers from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until all spaces are filled.
The federal government said 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine could be shipped to Canada by the end of December. But Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, says Indigenous communities in Manitoba are waiting to hear about how the province will distribute the Moderna vaccine and how many doses it’s receiving.
The impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous people and communities has been a pressing issue throughout Canada during the second wave of the pandemic, but especially in Manitoba.
Of the 63 First Nations in the province, 54 have reported a case of COVID-19 as of Dec. 18, according to a weekly bulletin issued by the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 pandemic response coordination team.
As of Dec. 24, there were 1,335 known active COVID-19 cases on Manitoba First Nations, and 781 known active cases off-reserve, according to the latest daily bulletin issued by the Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team.
There have also been 89 First Nations people in Manitoba who have died from COVID-19 as of Dec. 24, according to the latest bulletin.
“Everybody’s being touched and we need to figure out how to best deal with that, and how to best protect everyone,” said Dumas.
Dumas didn’t want to speculate too much into how the Moderna doses would be prioritized, but said it would likely go to the communities that need it most, and that health-care workers would likely be the first priority group. Then, other demographics and communities would be prioritized based on who is most at risk, he said.
Another challenge will be to educate Indigenous people about the vaccine to build trust, as there is a history of the federal government using that population as test subjects, said Dumas.
Remote B.C. First Nations to begin getting Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine this week
The Moderna vaccine will be offered to everyone aged 18 and over in 10 rural and remote Indigenous communities in B.C. this week, mostly in the north, where health care services are limited.
Indigenous peoples are at a higher risk of COVID-19 than the rest of the population due to reduced access to stable housing, income, clean water, and or health services, FNHA noted.
On Christmas Eve, TCG wrote the vaccine would be arriving in all three of their communities, including Iskut (Luwe Chon), Dease Lake, (Talh’ah) and Telegraph Creek (Tlegohin) on Dec. 29.
Unlike the first COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech, which arrived in B.C. on Dec. 14, the Moderna vaccine is the preferred option for remote communities as it does not require ultra-cold storage and is easier to handle.
As of Dec. 27, Indigenous Services Canada said it was aware of 585 positive confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on First Nations reserves in B.C.
In recent weeks, many First Nations have confirmed potential exposures, including Saik’uz First Nation near Vanderhoof and Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation southwest of Williams Lake, which are both denying access to non-residents.
Northern Ontario’s First Nation vaccine rollout effort is a ray of hope in a desperate hour
But that makes the vaccine rollout efforts happening in Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory a ray of hope in a desperate hour. As I write this, First Nations leaders in Northern Ontario are preparing to roll out the Moderna vaccine in nearly 50 communities – a gargantuan organizational feat that rightly prioritizes Northern Ontario First Nations to receive the vaccine and is deserving of recognition.
The federal government has to work in concert with the provinces and all who deliver health care to reach our most vulnerable. There is no getting around it; it is their fiduciary duty, but it’s also the humane thing to do.
The effort happening in Ontario appears to be in stark contrast to the situation in Manitoba. Earlier this month, Premier Brian Pallister implied that he did not think it was fair to give Indigenous people priority when it comes to vaccine distribution. This, despite what is going on in Shamattawa First Nation – a small, northern Manitoba community of 1,000 people where, as of mid-December, at least 357 people tested positive for COVID-19.
Shamattawa is a Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak community, and the last I heard before Dec. 18, there was no co-operation between MKO and the Manitoba government in terms of a vaccine rollout strategy.
“While I can’t really say when the exact date the rollout will begin,” says Grand Chief Fiddler, “we are hoping the end of March will be the date to complete the first round. Medical teams now have to be assembled. Some regions in NAN have more capacity to do this themselves but we are now looking at what capacities are there now. There are so many considerations.”
Grand Chief Fiddler adds that they have heard those “16 and under are not eligible” for the vaccine and in order to keep everyone safe, the “goal is to vaccinate 70 per cent of our community. We’d like to go higher, but that is the magic number, according to health officials.”
COVID-19 vaccine distributed to members of Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate
Delbert Hopkins Jr., chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, says phase one of their vaccine distribution includes IHS staff, first responders and some elderly people in long-term care facilities. The first shipment included 300 doses.
“As a Native American Indigenous people, we are home at this time,” Hopkins said. “To get sick, especially with these COVID numbers, that we do have quite a few tribal members that pass on because of the COVID. One is too many already.”
Both Hopkins and Renville say around two-thirds of the tribal population is considered high-risk.
“To sustain our community. You know, we can’t afford to lose any elders. We can’t afford to lose any of our population,” Renville said.
“We are losing our speakers. Especially our older ones and we need those elders around to keep those stories and the language around,” Hopkins said.
“It’s more important for us now than ever to pay attention to science, to believe the professionals and healthcare workers and do what we can to protect our community,” Renville said.
First Nation in Metro Vancouver will finally have clean drinking water in 2021
The First Nation reached an agreement with the City of Surrey in July 2018 to provide potable water and sewer connections to the reserve. Construction on two km of piping began in March 2019 with funding from the federal government.
The project is now expected to reach completion next year, after incurring some delays due to COVID-19. The work will reach full completion once the new water and sewer infrastructure connect with the homes on the reserve.
In a statement, Harley Chappell, the Chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation, says the new connections mark “hope and new beginnings for our community to have reliable access to potable drinking water. We are proud of what we have accomplished, and this is a momentous occasion for our Nation to improve the health and wellbeing of the Semiahma.”
Why isn’t more COVID-19 vaccine available immediately?
“We’ve never distributed vaccines on this scale before,” said Lois Privor-Dumm, director of adult vaccines at the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We’re talking about trying to reach the whole planet, essentially.”
On the manufacturing side, there’s a hustle to expand production to more factories, which need to be fitted out with specialized equipment, and to train workers. And once made, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines must be kept at freezing temperatures, so they can’t be distributed in just any vehicle or stored in just any warehouse.
“It’s not like making widgets,” said Nancy Pire-Smerkanich, assistant professor of regulatory and quality sciences at the USC School of Pharmacy.
Instead of spending the time and money to build new factories to expand their capacity, pharmaceutical firms — including Pfizer and Moderna — are largely turning to contractors that specialize in vaccine manufacturing.
Pfizer is using several of its own factories in the U.S. and Belgium and is teaming up with outside companies to scale up manufacturing, a spokeswoman said. Moderna, whose business historically has not involved much production, is more reliant on third parties.
Bringing a COVID-19 vaccine to Black and Indigenous communities distrustful of the health system has unique challenges. Here are some places to start
With Canada embarking on the largest and most important immunization campaign in the country’s history, Gebremikael and other Black and Indigenous health leaders say public health agencies should take advantage of the trust they have within their communities, which may be more skeptical or hesitant toward the COVID-19 vaccine due to general mistrust in a health-care system that has historically mistreated them. “Engagement with the community is going to be critical,” Gebremikael said.
There is significant vaccine hesitancy within the general population — a recent survey by polling firm Angus Reid found that 48 per cent of Canadians said they would get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon it was available to them, while 31 per cent would get it eventually, 14 per cent wouldn’t get it and seven per cent weren’t sure. Experts say whatever hesitancy exists in the general population is compounded for racialized and Indigenous people by systemic racism, historical injustices and negative personal experiences with the health-care system.
“There’s mistrust in our systems, period, for people of African descent,” said Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, a Dalhousie University professor who studies racism and health.
I Rejected the Native Grieving Ceremonies My Mother Taught Me When She Died. But Losing Friends During the Pandemic Changed That
When she died years ago, I willfully denied all ceremony—picked berries, left my hair untouched and condemned our ways, because I resented how often Indian women are asked to mourn. I didn’t want short hair like my mother. I thought I could will death away by denying my roots. But the pandemic has changed that.
I had five friends in the world when this crisis began, all Indigenous. I lost two. Statistics are always bad for Indians. Our death rates, suicide rates and poverty numbers have been omnipresent in my life since before the pandemic. In the numbers I see the people I know, whose lives are often reduced into stigmatizing pie charts and graphs, if they are represented at all. When researchers began examining COVID-19 and racial demographics, I wondered how we’d fare, but I rarely saw us talked about. What was happening, away from the news, was me losing people who mattered. And the Indigenous people I loved were losing grandparents and language speakers, cousins, aunties and sisters: whole parts of our communities, from death both related and unrelated to the virus.
In April, after I lost someone dear, I felt compelled to cut my hair as best I could, without my mother. That day, all I could manage was the lone clump in the sink and a sense that I wasn’t doing it right. But soon, ceremony would become my savior.