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Vaccinations for First Nations delayed due to supply

The number of active COVID-19 cases was 209 at Stoney Nakoda First Nations in Morley on Monday.
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A sign along Morley Road notifies the residents of the Stoney Nakoda Nation about the risks of COVID-19 in March 2020. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

STONEY NAKODA— As COVID-19 case counts continue to rapidly rise at Stoney Nakoda First Nation, the planned roll-out of the vaccination program has been put on hold due to supply disruptions.

Updated COVID-19 information for Morley posted on Stoney Nakoda’s website indicates six new cases were identified on Monday (Jan. 18), bringing the total number of active cases to 209. There have been four deaths.

Provincial government say Alberta currently has the capacity to deliver 50,000 doses of the vaccine per week, but expects to be able to administer 200,000 doses per week in March after supply increases.

“Unfortunately, this means that the planned vaccination of First Nations and Métis individuals and seniors over age of 75 has been put on hold,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a briefing on Monday (Jan. 18).

Last week, a state of local emergency was declared for the Stoney Nakoda Nation, which includes the communities of Morley, Big Horn and Eden Valley, due to the “unprecedented increase in COVID-19 positive cases.”

Since March 24, 2020, there have been 348 COVID-19 cases managed by Stoney Nakoda Health Services, with 209 active cases and 139 recovered .

Given the current transmission risk level is considered high, a curfew between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. has been mandated, except for work, health, or emergency purposes, and no house-to-house gatherings are allowed.

The state of local emergency also allows for control or ban on travel to and from any designated area, including other Nations, as deemed necessary to limit the spread of COVID.

“The Stoney Nakoda People will be at high risk of infection causing a potential loss of life as well as taxing the available local resources,” according to a statement on the Nation’s website.

To date, Alberta Health Services has administered nearly 90,000 vaccine doses province-wide to eligible health-care workers and staff and residents in continuing care homes around the province.

In addition, the first dose vaccinations have wrapped up at all 357 long-term care and designated supported living facilities in the province.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said she knows that many seniors would benefit from the vaccine and wants to offer immunizations as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, she said, Alberta is receiving fewer doses than hoped for over the next few weeks.

“However, once supply increases, we will be able to expand access and start offering the vaccine to all seniors 75 years or older, no matter where they live,” she said.

“We will also be able to begin offering vaccines to persons 65 years of age and over living in First Nations communities or Metis Settlements.”

On Monday, Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson said he has heard from First Nations leaders concerned about the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Alberta’s government recognizes that First Nations are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement, noting that is why First Nations are prioritized in phase one of the vaccine roll-out.

“I have spoken to many First Nations Chiefs to assure them that we want to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, due to delays caused by the vaccine manufacturer and a lack of supply from the federal government, the roll-out to First Nations communities has been delayed.”