The Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations (FSIN) is calling on all levels of government to make First Nations a priority for receiving the coronavirus vaccine.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said First Nations have an inherent right under treaty rights to the vaccines and to being placed on the priority list.
“With the medicine chest clause, this means First Nations people are expecting the COVID-19 vaccines to be readily available in our communities once they’re shipped out,” Cameron said Wednesday in a statement.
“We must work together with both levels of government on the prioritization, delivery and distribution of this vaccine.”
Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said during a Wednesday briefing that details of who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first will be released next week.
“We expect health care workers and the residents in our long-term care and personal care homes (will) receive the first vaccines,” Merriman said.
“We do not yet have an exact timeline on when we will be receiving these vaccines.”
FSIN vice-chief David Pratt said elders and vulnerable Indigenous people need to be prioritized due to underlying health issues.
“Our First Nations communities have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other health conditions that put them at an even higher risk of serious complications or even life-threatening problems if they contract COVID-19,” Pratt said.
“(The vaccine) must go directly to the First Nation as soon as possible to ensure that these vulnerable members are protected. Every day they go without this vaccine, their lives and the lives of their communities most vulnerable are at exceptional risk.”
Cameron said he expects any vaccines to be readily available in their communities once shipped.
“The prime minister said no relationship is more important than the one with First Nations people, but we are not included in their discussions with the province about who is prioritized and most vulnerable,” he said.
“Being excluded from these life-altering discussions shows that First Nations are not a priority for either government.”