Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities across the country. Overall, active case counts continue to decline, with 1,123 active cases reported as of March 10, 2021.
This week marks one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. Communities all across the country have been overwhelmingly impacted over the course of the last year. But despite the challenges, Indigenous Leadership has played a critical role in ensuring community members have the information and resources needed to stay healthy and combat COVID-19.
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have demonstrated strength, resilience and courage throughout this year and that must be celebrated and acknowledged. Health care workers and front line staff have been at the centre of efforts to respond and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus for the past year. The Government of Canada continues to thank everyone for their efforts and dedication to save lives.
While we have made tremendous progress, it is critical that everyone continue with physical distancing, wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and non-essential travel, staying home when sick, get the COVID-19 vaccine when possible, and keeping up with frequent hand washing, cough and surface hygiene. The combination of all these public health measures are required to stop the spread of the virus.
In First Nations communities, as of March 10, ISC is aware of:
- 22,581 confirmed positive COVID-19
- 1,123 active cases
- 21,208 recovered cases
- 250 deaths
There is a total of 48 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec, with only six of those being active. As of March 9, the Government of Nunavut is reporting 23 active cases in the Kivalliq Region, and a total of 381 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the 381 reported cases, 357 people have recovered from the virus.
As of March 3, 2021, more than 2.9 million Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been distributed across the country. As of March 9, 2021, 162,155 doses have been administered in 536 communities, with a 53 per cent dose administration rate among adults in First Nations and Inuit communities in provinces and Indigenous and non-Indigenous adults in the territories.
There are now four COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada. The vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson will be available to everyone in Canada who is recommended to receive it by federal, provincial and territorial public health authorities this year.
In line with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s recommendations, all Indigenous adults, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, are recommended to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible. The Government of Canada is working with provincial and territorial governments to allocate, distribute and administer vaccines as efficiently, equitably and effectively as possible.
We are also continuing to support the vaccine roll out for Indigenous adults living in urban cities and towns across Canada. For example, cities across British Columbia have started booking appointments for Indigenous People 65 years of age and older. And of note, Chatham-Kent, Ontario will start offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments to Indigenous adults starting this week as well. First Nation, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous people who are over 16, as well as their immediate household members will be eligible.
ISC is also working with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada to identify and address any unsolicited offers of COVID-19 vaccine for sale to Indigenous communities that are deemed suspicious. Public Services and Procurement Canada, on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada and based on advice from the Vaccine Task Force, leads negotiations and finalizes agreements with vaccine manufacturers. This ensures the legitimacy of all vaccine products coming into Canada, and further ensures everyone in Canada, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, can have confidence in the authenticity and safety of the vaccines being provided to them. Vaccine orders are confirmed by provinces and territories to the Public Health Agency Vaccine Rollout National Operations Centre (NOC). Shipments of doses from manufacturers to Canada and select destinations across all provinces and territories are then coordinated and monitored through NOC to ensure the safety and security of all deliveries.
ISC is also working with partners to help dispel some inaccurate information that has been circulating to certain communities about fraudulent offers and false and distorted information about side effects. The spread of misinformation can have real consequences and can distort people’s behaviours and decision-making. It is important to look for current and up to date information from trusted sources, and to consider the source of information before spreading or sharing articles of facts. Trusted information includes that from federal, provincial and territorial health authorities, community health centres, nursing stations or local healthcare providers.
A number of federal partners, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), ISC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, continue to work in collaboration with communities, provinces and territories in an effort to assess on-going community needs, and supports. This week, the CAF will deploy to Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Manitoba to assist the community with their COVID-19 response. This is in addition to the many First Nations communities that the CAF has supported in recent months with managing COVID-19 outbreaks and facilitating vaccine distribution. In Ontario, Weeneebayko and ORNGE, who are leading Operation Remote Immunity, are currently administering second doses in a number of communities. ISC is also exploring with First Nations and provincial partners where there may be an interest in partnership opportunities with the CAF to expand capacity for logistics support and accelerate the administration of vaccines.
As vaccines continue to roll out across the country, we remain thankful for all healthcare workers, nurses, Doctors, Indigenous leadership and countless others, who are playing a critical role in helping communities through the COVID-19 pandemic.