The First Nations people in Manitoba who are now eligible for the COVID vaccine
WINNIPEG -- The province has opened up vaccine eligibility to include any First Nations person in Manitoba born on or before Dec. 31, 1946.
On Wednesday, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said those looking to book appointments can call 1-844-626-8222 to book an appointment. Anyone calling will need to provide the numbers on their health card.
The First Nations people eligibility includes both on and off-reserve residents.
The province also announced that Manitobans born on or before Dec. 31, 1926 are now included in the vaccine eligibility.
READ MORE: Manitoba getting ready to open vaccinations to general public
The 20-year difference in eligibility of the general population and First Nations people is due to the disproportionate effect COVID-19 is having on First Nations people, said Dr. Marcia Anderson, the public health lead of the Manitoba First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team.
She said First Nations people are experiencing more severe illness due to COVID-19, and at younger ages.
Manitobans are asked to only call if they are in these eligibility groups.
FIRST NATIONS CALLING FOR VACCINE MUST VERIFY THEIR IDENTITY
Anderson said First Nations people looking to get a vaccine dose will be asked to verify their identity. She said this is because there have been past cases where people falsely claim to be First Nations.
"We want to make sure that this is done in a way that is safe for people, and does not exclude our First Nations relatives who – because of the complicated and various process of colonization – do not have Indian status cards."
Anderson said in the coming weeks, those who call to book a vaccine appointment and self-identify as First Nations will be transferred to a specialized team at the call centre.
"These specialists will have additional training in cultural safety to ensure that they support the caller and facilitate access to an appointment to those who are eligible," Anderson said, adding callers will be asked if they have their own status card or number.
If the caller does not have a status card or number, Anderson said they will be asked if they can provide a status card or number from a first-degree relative – such as a parent, grandparent or sibling.
She said there will be a process to deal with cases where First Nations people do not have any relatives with a status card or number.
"Our goal will be to ensure that all First Nations people, regardless of their status under the Indian Act, have equitable access to the vaccine," Anderson said. "This process is not perfect, but it will help make sure that First Nations people do have access to the vaccine as soon as possible."