Tribal councils open vaccination sites in three cities
- | April 09, 2021
Three Central Saskatchewan Tribal Councils have opened COVID-19 vaccination sites in Prince Albert, North Battleford and Saskatoon.
The tribal councils have partnered with Indigenous Services Canada to fund the vaccinations, and with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
Prince Albert Grand Council Chief Brian Hardlotte said the partners are concerned about Indigenous people who live in towns and cities and are making an extra effort to reach vulnerable people.
“I know in the cities there’s vaccination sites, but we thought it’s important for our First Nations people and the Métis, (to be served) in a more comfortable setting with the translation services - a lot of our nurses speak Cree and Dene - and have an opportunity to smudge before they get vaccinated to feel more comfortable,” Hardlotte said.
“If they do need transportation they call and ask for some people to come and pick them up.”
Some First Nations have up to 50 per cent of their people living in one of the three urban centres, he said.
“As Tribal Councils our work is with the First Nations, but our people don’t want to drive maybe four hours to their community to get vaccinated, so that’s why it’s important to have vaccination sites.”
Prince Albert, which was the first site to open, on April 1, administered 252 doses on the first day and by April 6, was fully booked until April 23.
“With the history of our people with health and the residential schools, the way we were treated, the trust wasn’t always there. But with this, it helps. There may be vaccine hesitancy. We tell them it’s safe and effective.
“You feel good, like the partnership is working, the people have a place to come where they feel comfortable with the people giving the vaccination,” said Chief Hardlotte.
Neil Sasakamoose, Executive Director of the Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs, said all of its member bands had outbreaks and are working to keep rates of infection down. “These sites are a must for us because of proximity of our First Nations to North Battleford.”
Fighting the pandemic is personal for Sasakamoose, whose father, Fred Sasakamoose, died from COVID-19 in December.
“We’ve been dealing with this for over a year now and we’ve lost a lot of good people. We haven’t been able to have wakes or lay people to rest properly.
“My father missed this vaccine by two months and he fell to COVID-19. We all have to get through this the best we can and deal with the mental heath. We haven’t been able to grieve. That’s the hidden part of the pandemic.
“Only 30 people were allowed at my father’s funeral but there are 160 people in my immediate family.”
“It compounds the worry and stress. It’s almost like a silent pandemic.”
Staff at the sites will collect information about which First Nations people come from to help individual bands get an understanding of how many of their people are vaccinated.
The sites will continue vaccinations until summer but there is no exact date for when all vaccinations will be done, Hardlotte said.
To book appointments in Prince Albert call PAGC at 306-953-7285 or Sask Health Authority at 1-833-727-5829.
To book appointments in Saskatoon call 1-833-653-0002 or register for Saskatoon appointment online at www.sktc.sk.ca.
North Battleford has scheduled its opening at the Dekker Centre for April 12. Book appointments by contacting BATC at 1-883-330-BATC (2282) or the Sask Health Authority at 1-833-727-5829.