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New data shows pandemic disproportionately affecting Manitoba's Indigenous communities

Last Updated Feb 3, 2021 at 3:54 pm EST

WINNIPEG (CityNews) – Manitoba’s First Nations communities have been the hardest hit by COVID-19.

Indigenous communities, which make up half of Manitoba’s population, account for 73 per cent of active cases within the province and 52 per cent of ICU admissions.

That data is being looked at to help create an equitable vaccination rollout.

“We need to ensure First Nations people have access to the vaccine in an equitable and timely way both to protect those most at risk and stopping our health system from being overwhelmed,” explained Dr. Marcia Anderson, Lead of the First Nation Pandemic Response.

“Equitable doesn’t mean equal. It means the proper distribution so First Nation people get the outcomes they are entitled to. We want First Nations people to not be hospitalized at five times the rates of other people. If things were fair they’d make up 10 per cent and not 50 per cent.”

WATCH: Dr. Marcia Anderson and Dr. Joss Reimer are expected to provide an update on immunization plans for First Nations people in Manitoba.

According to the plan released Monday by the Manitoba government, the first priority group – which will receive 5,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine – will include the following:
– Health-care workers in remote/isolated communities (those without road access)
– Residents/Staff of PCHs or Elder Care Facilities
– Individuals 60 years and over In remote/isolated communities
– Individuals 70 and over in non-remote communities.

While a second allotment of 1,200 doses will go to:
– Health-care workers in non-remote First Nations
– First Nation alternative isolation workers on First Nation sites
– Traditional Healers/Knowledge keepers

The province’s second phase will see non-First Nations individuals 80 and up be eligible to receive the vaccine. That age will be lowered to those 60 and up within First Nations communities due to the inequitable outcomes.

“For First Nations people in Manitoba, the median age of hospitalizations is 51 years, the median age of death is 66 years. What that means is half of these are occurring 17 years younger than the rest of the province,” added Anderson.

Further planning is underway for the urban Indigenous population as well as Metis and Inuit vaccine plans.