Indigenous liaison boosts supports at vaccine site

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This article was published 12/06/2021 (428 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Steinbach nursing student is helping to make the city’s vaccination site more accessible to First Nation, Metis, and Inuit clients.

Victoria Hickes is one of 22 Indigenous liaisons hired by the Southern Chiefs’ Organization to work at vaccination sites across Manitoba this summer.

Hickes has been working full-time at the Steinbach super site, located at 294 Lumber Avenue, since May 24.

JORDAN ROSS / THE CARILLON Nursing student Victoria Hickes is an Indigenous liaison at the Steinbach vaccination super site.

“I’m really passionate about Indigenous health, so I thought this would be a really good way to contribute back to Indigenous people in my own kind of way,” she said.

Hickes, who is Inuit, is originally from Thompson. She lives in Steinbach and studies nursing at the University of Manitoba. She said she applied for the liaison role to gain valuable health-care experience.

The job of an Indigenous liaison is to welcome and assist First Nation, Metis, and Inuit clients arriving at vaccination centres.

“I’m on site to just make sure Indigenous people feel culturally safe when they come,” Hickes explained. “We just try and treat everybody equally, so they don’t feel singled out or awkward.”

On any given day, Hickes might assist her clients with paperwork, screen them for COVID-19 symptoms or recent travel, arrange translation services, or help them navigate the site, which can immunize up to 420 people per day. She also has sage that clients can hold if they’re feeling anxious.

Hickes normally stands near the entrance and wears a distinctive black and green vest so she’s easy for clients to find.

Indigenous liaisons also help SCO determine how many First Nation, Metis, and Inuit clients are accessing vaccination sites. So far in Steinbach, Hickes said the numbers have been a little lower than expected. She said that may be because some clients are choosing to be immunized in Winnipeg, which has two urban Indigenous vaccination clinics, or because they may not be aware that an Indigenous liaison is available in Steinbach.

Hickes said most of the Indigenous and Metis clients arriving for vaccination appointments in Steinbach are from the Southeast region.

In September, Hickes will enter her final year of studies. When she enrolled in the nursing program, her goal was to work with children. As her studies progressed, she developed a special interest in Indigenous health.

After graduation, she hopes to return to northern Manitoba and practice nursing in smaller communities.

Wherever she is, Hickes said she enjoys talking with people and helping others.

“It feels really good to be a part of this (vaccination effort), and I feel like it’s really important that there are Indigenous liaisons, so people feel comfortable to access that care.”

Data published by the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team suggests that removing barriers to booking and attending vaccination appointments is an important way to protect Indigenous Manitobans from the coronavirus.

Statistics released Friday showed that 40 percent of those who died from COVID-19 in Manitoba during the month of May were Indigenous, even though First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals comprise about 18 percent of Manitoba’s population, according to the 2016 census.

According to the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 dashboard, 66.6 percent of First Nations people living on-reserve, and 48.3 of those living off-reserve, had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of June 3.

 

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