2nd-dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments open to Indigenous people in Manitoba on Monday

Indigenous people in Manitoba can start booking appointments for their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine starting Monday.

1st dose vaccination rates 67 per cent for on-reserve, 30 per cent for off-reserve First Nations

Some second-dose appointments are being booked in Manitoba on Friday. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Indigenous people in Manitoba can start booking appointments for their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine starting Monday.

All eligible First Nations, Métis and Inuit people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least 21 days ago or the Moderna vaccine at least 28 days ago can book starting at 11:45 a.m. Monday. Eligible people are asked to hold off on calling until that time, said Dr. Marcia Anderson, head of Manitoba's First Nations pandemic response team.

First Nations people have made up 40 to 60 per cent of all patients admitted to intensive care units during the second and third waves of the pandemic, Anderson said during an online video conference. First Nations people make up only about 10 per cent of the population of the province.

"Of these First Nations people, currently two-thirds of them live outside of First Nations communities, and mostly in urban environments. That's why it's so important to get our communities both on and off reserve fully vaccinated as soon as possible," Anderson said.

People can receive their second dose at a different location from where they got their first dose, as long as it's the same type of vaccine as the first dose.

Currently, the vaccination rates are around 67 per cent among First Nations people living on-reserve in Manitoba and around 30 per cent for those living off-reserve.

The current vaccination rate for the province as a whole is around 55 per cent.

Systemic barriers

There are many reasons why there's a difference in vaccine uptake between on- and off-reserve First Nations populations, including the difference in time between when those 18 and older living on-reserve became eligible compared to those living off-reserve, Anderson said.

Another complicating factor has been a high number of non-Indigenous people using the urban Indigenous clinics.

Sometimes when people working at the site have inquired about self-identification, residence or family connections of people in line to get their vaccines and attempted to turn away non-Indigenous people, they've been met with "significant backlash," Anderson said.

"If those clinics continue to serve a majority of non-Indigenous people, then we might not be putting the effort that we need to to go out in more outreach campaign-style events, whether that's community mobilization, door-to-door campaigns to bring people in," she said.

"It is great to get needles in arms. We all share that goal, but when those needles are not getting into the arms of those who are at higher risk, then we need to be able to take a step back and rethink what we need to do in order to reach those most at risk."

Other factors affecting vaccine uptake among some Indigenous people include systemic racism, transportation, previous negative experiences, mistrust for the system and difficulty navigating booking systems.

Recent numbers suggest vaccine uptake among urban Indigenous people might be picking up speed.

"In the past week, what our data has shown is that we've had more urban First Nations people vaccinated than in any other week. Almost 2,000 additional people were vaccinated with Pfizer as a first dose within the past week," Anderson said.

In previous campaigns in reserve communities, vaccine uptake was slow initially, but picked up as people saw community members getting the vaccine, as well as when case numbers began to rise, Anderson said.

Health conditions

Second-dose appointments opened up for all people with certain medical conditions that put them at higher risk from COVID-19 on Friday.

Bookings for other non-Indigenous people will progress in the order in which people received their first doses, officials have said.

Throughout Manitoba's first-dose vaccination campaign, the age of eligibility for First Nations was 20 years younger than the general population, in recognition of the higher risk First Nations people face.

All Manitobans 12 and up are now eligible to book an appointment for a first dose of a vaccine.

Reimer and Anderson's announcement comes one day after Manitoba broke a new record for daily cases.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced a further tightening of COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday.

Starting Saturday, gathering with members of other households will be prohibited, except in cases of people living alone, who may have one designated visitor. Also, only one member of a household will be allowed to enter a business, with exceptions for single parents and caregivers.