WHILE vaccinations were temporarily halted in Winnipeg, Manitoba First Nations residents are still lining up for the shot.
Grand Chief Ron Evans said nearly 24,000 of the 84,000 who live on Manitoba reserves received the H1N1 vaccine in the last week. Evans said remote communities still have adequate supply, and will continue to offer the shot at nursing stations.
Remote Manitoba First Nations were caught off guard by the spread of severe H1N1 influenza last spring, and dozens of sick patients were flown to Winnipeg and put on ventilators in intensive care units. The outbreak confirmed the worst fears of First Nation leaders who warned impoverished aboriginal reserves are ill-equipped to deal with widespread infections.
Evans said people are lining up to protect themselves this time around, and hopes that more First Nations will get the vaccine in the coming weeks. He suspects the recent death of 13-yearold Evan Frustaglio in Ontario has also encouraged people to get the vaccine.
"We're over a quarter of the way," Evans said. "Given that we've just started I think that's pretty good."
St. Theresa Point took drastic measures to ensure people at risk of falling severely ill with H1N1 got the shot.
Chief David McDougall said the remote community cancelled school classes for four days last week, so children and their parents could receive the H1N1 shot together at the nursing station. The idea worked, and McDougall said 2,000 of the reserve's 3,500 were vaccinated in the last week. The first cluster of severe H1N1 cases surfaced in the isolated fly-in community, located 600 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. During the peak of the first wave, between 300 and 400 people were sick, and close to 40 people with symptoms of severe respiratory illness were flown to Winnipeg, McDougall said.
One of McDougall's nieces died in hospital, and 22 others had confirmed cases of H1N1.
"After having experienced what we went through last spring we're taking it very seriously," he said. "We know what the disease can do."
At this point in the flu season, Mc- Dougall said there are no confirmed cases of H1N1.
"So far we've had a couple of alarm bells (with) people (thinking) they had H1N1."