Alberta First Nations hold clinics offering elders 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine
'They're the backbone of our communities and it's really important that we protect them'
On the Tsuut'ina Nation outside Calgary, their mobile health clinic is giving community elders a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Joel Fischer, Tsuut'ina clinic manager, said elders have been phoning in to the clinic for information about third doses.
"A booster is just a kind of extra assurance," said Fischer.
Third doses of COVID-19 vaccine are available for Albertans 75 and over and First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals 65 and over, six months after their second dose. Immunocompromised individuals 12 years and older can also receive a third dose eight weeks after their second one.
Eligibility for other age groups receiving boosters is uncertain in the province.
Fischer said he helps nation members wade through the misinformation being passed around.
"Some of our nation members, it's just information overload, and that causes a lot of fear and anxiety and confusion."
Fischer says person-to-person messages from their long term health care workers in the nation is the best relay they've had in increasing their vaccination numbers.
The mobile clinics have a home-care team and are one of the main contacts to a large portion of elders in the community. They are the ones familiar with nation members and seek elders' concerns or questions.
A recent video posted by AFN Alberta urges communities to talk about masking mandates and the importance of following health guidelines.
Marlene Poitras, AFN Alberta Regional Chief from Mikisew Cree First Nation, helped produce the video project along with Treaty 6, 7 and 8 youth and elders.
Poitras hopes the elders' messages reach all communities.
"They're [elders] the backbone of our communities and it's really important that we protect them and retain that knowledge."
Alice Rigney, from Fort Chipewyan, Alta., and one of the elders in the video, encourages families to support one another through teachings and stories from the land. In the video, she encourages people to get the vaccine for the good of themselves and their community.
"Losing an elder, you're losing a library and the stories they would have loved to have shared," she said.
Rigney, 70, teaches Dene language classes and shares her life with two grandsons. She has received her third dose.
"The way I feel, get the vaccine," she said.
"You're protecting yourself, family, community and our future."