The province of Manitoba has expanded eligibility for a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people as well as to anyone over 70.
Marcia Anderson, who leads the First Nations pandemic team, said it’s important for Indigenous people to be vaccinated.
“Populations that experience racism and marginalization, including Indigenous Peoples, have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” Anderson said Wednesday.
There must be six months between the second and third dose.
Indigenous people were hit hard by the second and third waves of the pandemic in Manitoba with higher infection, hospitalization and death rates than non-Indigenous people. Anderson said that’s linked to poverty, overcrowded housing and effects from the legacy of colonization.
According to statistics from the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team in Manitoba, there are a total of 685 First Nations people on and off-reserve in the province who have active cases – or 57 per cent of the provincial population. As of this post, 255 First Nations people have died from COVID-19.
Nationally, the rate of active COVID-19 cases started rising in First Nations communities in August, Anderson said. It was 4.2 times higher than the rate in the general population as of Oct. 12, she said.
Indigenous people were prioritized in the original vaccine rollout and some communities have experienced extremely high uptake.
Joss Reimer, who works with the province’s vaccine planning team, said older Manitobans were the first to get shots and that’s why they are now eligible for an additional one.
“Their immune response may not always be as strong as the population as a whole,” she said.
Vaccine efficacy could be waning for seniors during the fourth wave, said Reimer, who added that a third dose would maximize protection for people who are at higher risk of severe outcomes.
In Manitoba, 87 per cent of those eligible have received one dose of a vaccine and 83.9 per cent have both.
There has been a slow increase in COVID-19 cases in the last month. Most of the infections in recent months have been in the southern health region, where there are much lower vaccination rates.
There were 128 new cases and two more deaths reported Wednesday. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 also increased to 106 people.
Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer, urged anyone with symptoms to be tested. He said there have been reports of children going to school and adults going to work when they are sick.
Seriously ill patients are also showing up at health-care facilities and testing positive for the first time, Atwal said.
The third shot is available now to anyone who is eligible to receive it.