'A safe, caring place': Alberta Métis-led COVID-19 vaccine clinic first in Canada
'When you do it for Métis, it helps everybody in this country'
Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras took a deep breath, laughed and smiled under her blue Métis flag mask on Sunday as she mustered all of her courage to take her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I'm not very brave when it comes to needles, but it was good and it's something that I think our people wanted to see," Poitras said.
Poitras rolled up her sleeve to get the jab publicly at the first vaccine clinic run by a Métis organization in Canada in the hope of encouraging other Métis to do the same.
"You do things that you know you need to do," she said.
The four-day clinic, which is taking place at the Edmonton Inn and Conference Centre, is open to Métis Albertans age 50-plus until Tuesday.
The health profession has not been exempt from historical and ongoing inequity and racism toward Indigenous people in Canada, Poitras said.
"What we said is, 'How do we help make that better? How do we work together so people do feel that there's a safe, caring place for them to come?'" Poitras said.
The response to the Edmonton clinic has been tremendous, Poitras said.
"Already I'm getting calls, 'What about us in the south? What about us in the north?'," Poitras said.
The Métis-led clinic is important in the province's fight against COVID-19, Poitras said.
"We're Métis, but we're Albertans, we're Canadians, and when you do it for Métis, it helps everybody in this country," Poitras said.
Alberta had administered 594,723 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of the end of the day Saturday.
The Métis Nation of Alberta worked with Alberta Health Services to receive enough of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to administer up to 450 people per day at the clinic.
Earlier this month, the province launched Phase 2A of its COVID-19 immunization plan, in which First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1971 or earlier, no matter where they live, can book vaccines either at a pharmacy or online with Alberta Health Services.
Across the province, active cases of COVID-19 climbed to 7,698 on Sunday. Variants of concern accounted for 25.6 per cent of active cases.
Since the pandemic started last year, 1,983 deaths have been recorded in Alberta due to COVID-19.
The Alberta Métis hope to hold more clinics in the future at different locations.