WINNIPEG -- Vaccination plans for Manitoba First Nations have been released as communities continue to grapple with COVID-19 infections.

Over the weekend Barren Lands First Nation Councillor John Clarke said the first case of COVID-19 has hit the community.

“Which I believe was from an out-of-province traveller, and then there was three others identified as close contacts. Those folks were tested yesterday and all of them came out negative,” said Clarke.

With restrictions being loosened, Clarke said he is concerned this could make northern communities more vulnerable, especially with the needs for medical travel.

“We’ve seen this virus spread like wildfire in other First Nations,” said Clarke.

Chief Evan Yassie said it is a full community effort to keep the virus out.

“The young people have really stepped up in the community, as most of our pandemic team members are comprised of our young people. So I commend them all for doing such a wonderful job,” said Yassie.

The next 5,300 doses of the Moderna vaccination should be brought in by mid-month, according to an M.K.O. press release.

Sixty-three First Nations received the vaccine last month, with those doses going to people 60-years-old and older in remote communities, 70-year-olds and older in non-remote communities, health-care workers and residents and staff of care homes.

“It was very, very clear that it was our elderly Manitobans who were at the highest risk of those severe outcomes,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the Vaccine Implementation Task Force. “When we looked at how to best reach the most people, at the highest risk as fast as possible, the age-based approach was by far the most effective.”

In Winnipeg, a pop-up vaccination site has opened for First Nation Knowledge Keepers, traditional healers and health-care workers.

According to the Southern Chiefs Organization, 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be available at the pop-up vaccination sites in Manitoba. 

Due to the shortage of the Pfizer vaccine, the M.K.O. said the opening of the Thompson Vaxport supersite has been delayed until March 1.

The site will be used for community-wide vaccinations, for those who need to be flown or bussed in and individuals.