Numbers show the majority of people living on First Nations are not getting a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – and even fewer a fourth.
According to the Indigenous Services Canada website, 89 per cent of those 12-and-over received a second dose but this drops to 38 per cent for the third.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who works in the area of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, says those living in remote First Nations communities should get the additional shots because they may not have easy access to a hospital.
Even though the vaccines have proven to be less effective against transmission of the Omicron variant, Bogoch says additional booster shots are still worth getting.
“These vaccines are phenomenal and they really stand up and hold up over time,” he says. “Even in terms of protecting people against severe illness such as hospitalization and death.
“I mean they do such a remarkable job in lowering the risk.”
Dr. Thomas Wong, chief medical officer with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), agrees First Nations communities need to continue to be vigilant against the virus despite loosening of COVID-19 restrictions Canada-wide.
Wong says only about 10 per cent of people living in First Nations communities have received a fourth dose of the vaccine.
Wong says the government is meeting with First Nations communities on an individual basis to discuss COVID measures and understands Canadians need some reprieve from the pandemic.
“One of the things we are hearing from different partners is that people are a bit tired, you know, about COVID. Just a fatigue setting in.”
ISC was holding regular COVID-19 media updates but that has since dropped off. Wong says the briefings will likely resume in the fall.
Bogoch says with almost all COVID-19 restrictions lifting in the provinces and territories, coordinated public messaging is more essential than ever and the federal government should be leading the way.