Manitoba First Nations leaders are urging their citizens to get the flu vaccine.
“I get my flu shot every year, and it is very important during these unprecedented times to get a flu shot because of what is happening with COVID-19 and also with the flu season,” said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. Grand Chief Garrison Settee at a press conference Oct. 19.
“It is important because we do not have a vaccine yet for COVID-19, but we do have the vaccine for the flu,” he added.
According to Indigenous Services Canada, only 14.5 per cent of First Nations people in Manitoba were immunized with the seasonal flu vaccine last year. This number is lower than the provincial coverage rate of 26.3 per cent, reported for all Manitobans.
“We are encouraging everyone to take a flu shot if you have the opportunity to do so. Please take the flu shot as soon as you can to avoid getting sicker or having ‘twindemic,’ as they call it,” said Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.
“One of the things you can do to exercise control over this pandemic is to get the flu shot. I know a lot of people have concerns about the flu shot but we believe the flu shot will help our communities by limiting, if you can into contact with COVID-19, the doubling of illnesses,” said Dr. Barry Lavallee, CEO of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc.
The flu shot is available for free to anyone who is six months and older. The vaccine takes about two weeks to start working so First Nations leaders are advising its citizens to be proactive and get the flu shot now.
“First Nations people across the province have worked diligently to keep COVID-19 out of our Nations,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas in a press release. “I urge everyone to use the flu shot as another method to ensure our nations remain as safe as possible during these challenging times. The flu shot is a safe and effective way to protect ourselves and our families, so let’s all step up and do our part.”
This year, the provincial government will increase its influenza vaccine order by 20 per cent. The province has already shipped out more than 150,000 doses of the vaccine, and it is expected to show up in offices soon.
“Just like every year, flu season will be upon us very shortly. This will be a flu season unlike any other because it is very likely going to be with close circulation of COVID-19 as well as the typical respiratory viruses we see every year,” said Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin. “We know that First Nation communities do get the flu shots, but we see that the levels are lower compared to other parts of the province. So we urge you and encourage First Nation partners to get the flu shot this year and get it early on before we start seeing the flu virus circulating.”
Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the government of Canada.