Siksika Nation receives its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Residents and staff at the Siksika Elders Lodge will be immunized on Friday starting at 1 p.m.

Immunizations to begin on Friday for staff, residents at Siksika Elders Lodge

Residents and staff at the Siksika Elders Lodge will be immunized on Friday starting at 1 p.m. (CBC News)

Siksika First Nation in southern Alberta has received its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and will begin immunizations on New Year's Day, Siksika Health Services (SHS) announced in a press release on Thursday.

Health workers on the First Nation, which is about 100 kilometres east of Calgary, will begin immunizing residents and staff at the Siksika Elders Lodge on Friday at 1 p.m.

The care facility for Siksika elders was among those prioritized by the province to receive the vaccine as it provides continuing care for seniors.

"We are pleased to see that a safe and effective vaccine has been developed so quickly and made available to our most vulnerable nation members and their care providers," Nioksskaistamik Ouray Crowfoot, chief of Siksika First Nation, was quoted as saying.

"Our health services continue to plan for a staged roll-out of additional vaccine to other priority groups in the near future."

Premier Jason Kenney said that the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Alberta on Tuesday, and would be given as quickly as possible to residents and staff in long-term care centres.

The initial 16,900 doses were to be sent to long-term care facilities in Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, St. Paul, Fort Saskatchewan and six congregate living facilities on First Nations.

The first dose was given to a resident of the Riverview Care Centre in Medicine Hat on Wednesday.

Siksika currently at 'high risk' of transmission

There are approximately 7,500 members living on Siksika First Nation, according to its website.

As of Dec. 29, there were 12 active cases of COVID-19 at Siksika. A total of 323 cases have been reported on the First Nation.

Its current transmission risk level is "red," or high-risk.

In July, the First Nation instituted a curfew after 10 cases were reported in the community. 

In November, the First Nation also closed all of its schools and its homeless shelter after COVID-19 cases within the community jumped from zero to more than a dozen in just a few days.

Last summer, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, praised Siksika leadership for acting proactively and transparently to control the spread. 

She also spoke out against discrimination, after reports that some First Nation members were being turned away from local businesses due to cases in the community.

With files from Sarah Rieger and CBC Edmonton