FSIN to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses directly after signing deal with Sask., Ottawa

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and the federal and provincial governments announced the memorandum of understanding on Thursday.

Under the agreement, First Nations will receive 14 per cent of Saskatchewan's COVID-19 vaccine doses

David Pratt, FSIN Vice Chief, says the memorandum of understanding will assist First Nations members including those in urban areas. (CBC News)

First Nations throughout Saskatchewan will directly receive COVID-19 vaccinations after signing a memorandum of understanding with the provincial and federal governments. 

The agreement will allow for an effective and "culturally supportive" vaccine campaign in First Nations communities and for members of First Nations living in urban areas, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) announced in a news release Thursday. 

The FSIN represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. It says its members will now receive 14 per cent of the province's COVID-19 vaccine doses for distribution.

Details on when the vaccines will begin to be distributed by the FSIN and which First Nations will be prioritized were not immediately available.

Cases of COVID-19 variants, which are more virulent than the common COVID-19 virus, are on the rise in Saskatchewan and First Nations in the province have been hard hit by the virus.

The latest data from Indigenous Services Canada says that as of March 24 there have been 6,156 cases of COVID-19 recorded on Saskatchewan's First Nations.

In general, the rate of reported cases in First Nations living on a reserve is 187 per cent higher than the rate of the general Canadian population. 

The COVID-19 variants are on the rise in Saskatchewan and have become a huge concern for our First Nation communities.- Richard Ben, Meadow Lake Tribal Council Chief

Thursday's vaccine news was welcomed by leaders of First Nations across the province. 

"The COVID-19 variants are on the rise in Saskatchewan and have become a huge concern for our First Nation communities.  This will help ease some of the worries that our members currently face," Meadow Lake Tribal Council Tribal Chief Richard Ben said in the news release. 

The FSIN stressed that First Nations are among those in the highest risk category for the COVID-19 virus and have pushed to be a prioritized.

"We're breathing a sigh of relief with this announcement and welcome the news that all of our community members will have vaccines made available to them" said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt in the news release. 

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.