A new vaccination campaign launched this week, called Protect Our People MB, is encouraging vaccine uptake and confidence among younger First Nation people throughout the province.
Manitoba has seen cases and test positivity rates rise with an increasing number of variants of concern in younger people.
Some are choosing not to get vaccinated because of misinformation and fears about the virus and the vaccines.
Something Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said is a major reason the campaign was started.
“We now have demographics that are hesitant to take the vaccine and so I think it’s important for us to clarify the facts around the vaccine. And also to erase any myths around what the vaccine’s intent is for and so we’re big believers in science you know we’re going to believe the experts,” Daniels said.
“It’s very important that we’re able to deal with the health outcomes that we’re seeing right now which obviously affects First Nations disproportionately. We have almost 50 per cent of our people in ICU’s, in the hospitals. It’s very important that our people are being given the correct information and are understanding the information so that they can make good decisions.”
First Nations people currently make up 22 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and 45 per cent of the patients in ICU according to the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination team.
SCO, along with other First Nation organizations in the province have partnered together with Manitoba and First Nation influencers.
Protect Our People MB focuses on those aged 18 to 35, primarily through social media platforms.
People involved include comedian and TikTok influencer Sherry Mckay, musicians William Prince and Leonard Sumner, and entrepreneur Brandi Woodhouse.
Woodhouse owns RezGal Lashes, and said this initiative means a lot to her since she knows first-hand what catching COVID-19 feels like.
“Well it kind of hit close to home too because my family and I caught Covid in in November and it was a real traumatizing experience,” she said.
“For me it’s all about protecting our elders, you know we cherish our elders and we really love our elders.”
A big part of the campaign is using social media and hashtags to connect to the younger audience.
It will also include radio public service announcements throughout Manitoba in English and various Indigenous languages.
“I think we’re taking a targeted approach to the demographics that are hesitating for taking the vaccine, and also to promote it to the ones who are recently being made available to. Especially in urban areas I think is a big part of that work,” Daniels said.
Woodhouse said changing the minds of those who do not want to get the vaccine will be challenging, but she will lean on what her experience was like.
“The only way that I think I could change people’s minds is just, I know everybody loves their grandmothers, everyone loves their grandpas, and that’s who you do it for. Do it for them, protect them,” Woodhouse said.
Currently in Manitoba, anyone aged 18 and over is eligible to book and receive a COVID-19 vaccination.