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Chief Tony Alexis criticizes Alberta's vaccine roll out

On January 19, Chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Tony Alexis, condemned the Alberta Government for its handling and distribution of its COVID vaccines. 

Alexis Nakota Sioux Chief Tony Alexis is criticizing the vaccine roll out in Alberta.

In November 2020, The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released preliminary guidance on the key populations for early COVID-19 vaccinations, “for the efficient, effective, and equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccine(s).”

The NACI guidance came because of the limited supply of the vaccines which necessitates that there be “prioritization of immunization in some populations earlier than others.”

The key populations in Stage 1 of the national vaccine rollout, which were identified by the NACI, are as follows:

Residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors.

Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older, then decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available.

Health care workers (including all those who work in health care settings and personal support workers whose work involves direct contact with patients).

And adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences.

On January 19, Chief of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Tony Alexis, condemned the Alberta Government for its handling and distribution of its COVID vaccines. 

"Provinces across Canada are following the NACI guidance and vaccinating Indigenous communities early, with other populations like the elderly identified as vulnerable,” said Chief Alexis.

“Meanwhile in Alberta under Minister [of Health] Shandro’s watch, First Nation communities are seeing case numbers rapidly rise, while the rest of the Alberta COVID numbers decline.”

Alarmingly, First Nations in Alberta have experienced the most on-reserve COVID cases in the entire country. At the time of writing, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) lists Alberta as having 4,086 confirmed cases within First Nations.

A few days ago, it was also reported that Maskwacis has had a total of 1,573 cases – nearly 10 percent of its entire population.

Chief Tony Alexis continued by saying, “after weeks of discussions and ‘consultation’ with Chiefs across Alberta – the government of Alberta deceived us and made special arrangements to distribute vaccines early to only one First Nation community. There was no direct communication for this action beforehand.”

“This behaviour belittles First Nations people and is a tactic that has been historically used by the government to divide Indigenous people in an attempt to pit us against one another.”

“Please know, my outrage is not directed to the community receiving the vaccine early, it is directed to Minister Shandro and the UCP government,” Chief Alexis emphasized.

“I am tired of being consulted and urged to work together when it truly does not matter. The UCP government continues to leave us in the dark on issues that directly and disproportionately affect Indigenous people.”

The Chief ended his statement by urging Minister Shandro that 10,000 doses would not be enough and that they need to comply with the NACI’s guidance.

Then just yesterday, Jason Kenney announced that the provincial government’s plan to vaccinate First Nations and Métis individuals aged 65 and older, which was expected to begin in February, has been put on hold until further notice.

“We have quite simply run out of supply,” Kenney said at a press conference.

Jacob Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Native News. 

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