The Manitoba government is partnering with five community organizations to establish new Indigenous-led COVID-19 immunization clinics, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson announced today, noting this initiative will help support better access and uptake of immunization among Indigenous people, who have been most seriously and disproportionately affected by the virus.
“These new immunization sites are an important option for people who would otherwise face barriers in accessing immunization, recognizing that Indigenous people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Stefanson. “These locations have been developed with the guidance and expertise of our community partners, and we are grateful for their support. By working together, we can help protect each other from this virus.”
Most of the immunization clinics are expected to open the week of April 26, with the Portage la Prairie and Thompson locations expected to open the week of May 3. Eligible people can make appointments through the provincial call centre, with support from the community partners when needed. The clinics will be located at:
• Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre in Thompson , 4 Nelson Rd., Thompson;
• Brandon Friendship Centre, 205 College Ave., Brandon;
• Prairie Fusion Arts and Entertainment Centre, led by the Portage la Prairie Community Revitalization Corporation, 11 Second St. NE, Portage la Prairie;
• Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre, 180 Higgins Ave., Winnipeg; and
• Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre – Win Gardner Place, 363 MacGregor Ave., Winnipeg.
“Indigenous leadership and partnerships improve health-care quality and access for Indigenous people,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead for the First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination Team. “This is critical for the success of Manitoba’s vaccine rollout and our shared goals of protecting the people we love and protecting the capacity of the health-care system.”
The work to establish these clinics has been led by an urban Indigenous vaccine committee, which includes representatives from Indigenous governance organizations and community organizations.
“Collaboration and partnerships with Indigenous organizations is instrumental in strengthening our ability to efficiently and safely provide access to vaccinations to Indigenous peoples in Manitoba,” said Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Clarke. “Our government committed to support the development of an effective plan that is relevant to the Indigenous population and reflects the needs of its members in urban areas.”
Clinic locations will provide culturally safe supports to people who might otherwise face barriers in accessing immunizations, to help support vaccine confidence and ensure these individuals are included in the largest immunization campaign in the province’s history.
Outreach co-ordinators and organization staff will help ensure their clients are aware of the clinics and the opportunity to be immunized, and will help to answer any questions or concerns they may have.
To help reduce barriers, about 20 per cent of all immunizations will be done on a walk-in basis, with the remainder being scheduled appointments. When possible, child minding or children’s activity kits will be offered to support parents who may not be able to make other arrangements. An Elder or traditional Knowledge Keeper will be at sites regularly, and traditional ceremony, smudging and traditional medicines may also be offered.
The Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre in Winnipeg and the sites in Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Thompson will also be used to help immunize people who are homeless or precariously housed. These sites are known and trusted by people experiencing homelessness, and will work closely with the community shelters to support access. At these sites, individuals will also receive a comfort kit that includes food and over-the-counter pain medication.
In the coming weeks, Focused Immunization Teams will visit shelters across the province to also offer immunizations to people who are homeless and these sites will be scheduled as soon as possible. All eligible and consenting individuals who are homeless and aged 18 or older are eligible for immunization.
To develop this plan, the committee also held extensive consultations with Indigenous governments, First Nation medical leadership, community-based partners and individuals with lived experience of homelessness.
In Manitoba, 50 to 60 per cent of all COVID-19 admissions to intensive care units have been First Nation people.
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION ATTACHED