First Nations immunization site pops up in Winnipeg

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A pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site in Winnipeg has put its focus on immunizing First Nations health-care workers, knowledge keepers and traditional healers — a first of its kind in the province.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/02/2021 (550 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site in Winnipeg has put its focus on immunizing First Nations health-care workers, knowledge keepers and traditional healers — a first of its kind in the province.

“Yesterday’s site opening was the result of many hours of tireless work by a small group of dedicated staff, health experts and front-line workers. They had limited resources but their efforts have created something wonderful and life-saving,” Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization said Tuesday.

“Throughout this pandemic it has been clear that First Nations people everywhere in Manitoba have been disproportionately impacted. Now that we have this life-saving vaccine, our people must remain a priority for immunization in a timely manner — especially our elders and our front-line workers.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels says First Nations people must remain a priority for vaccinations.

The Notre Dame Avenue site was quietly opened Monday, with a pipe ceremony, water ceremony and prayer. It was introduced to the public Tuesday, during a news conference featuring Indigenous medical leaders, grand chiefs and provincial representatives.

In an approximately one-week period, the pop-up site is to offer 889 first doses of the Moderna vaccine. It will then close and reopen at a later date to offer second doses, said Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead for the provincial First Nations COVID19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team

Despite his fear of needles, traditional healer, sun dance and ceremonial leader David Blacksmith received his shot at the site Monday. On Tuesday, he encouraged other First Nations elders to do the same.

“Six months ago, I had a dream of the vaccine, and I take my dreams very seriously,” Blacksmith said.

“This morning, I thought: ‘I think they saved my life from COVID,’ and that’s the bottom line. All traditional and all Aboriginal people need to get vaccinated.”

Anderson said the goal of the pop-up site is to deliver the vaccine in a culturally safe environment.

“It’s important that they see not just the rates of disproportionate impacts but the strengths that First Nations people bring to the table when we’re talking about a First Nations-led response to the health needs of our communities,” she said.

“Those responses are best when we are working together with our traditional healing systems, as well as our First Nations health experts and our provincial counterparts.”

Because the site is time-sensitive, leaders are asking eligible health-care workers to call and book appointments as soon as possible (booking information has been provided by employers).

The Manitoba government has allocated 11,800 vaccine doses to First Nations communities.

Thus far, the vaccine has been shipped to 63 First Nations communities for priority populations including health-care workers in remote or isolated communities, and residents and staff of personal care homes or elder care facilities.

julia-simone.rutgers@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jsrutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers
Reporter

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a climate reporter with a focus on environmental issues in Manitoba. Her position is part of a three-year partnership between the Winnipeg Free Press and The Narwhal, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation.

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Updated on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 6:29 AM CST: Adds photo

Updated on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 10:15 AM CST: Minor copy editing changes

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