Indigenous Services Canada Chief Medical Officer of Public Health Dr. Tom Wong responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday January 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Indigenous Services Canada Chief Medical Officer of Public Health Dr. Tom Wong responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday January 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

High vaccination rates decreasing COVID-19 cases in Indigenous communities

The number of active COVID-19 cases in First Nations communities has declined by 80% since mid-January

The number of active COVID-19 cases in First Nations communities has declined by 80 per cent since mid-January thanks to the high uptake of vaccines, says the top doctor at Indigenous Services Canada.

Dr. Tom Wong, the department’s chief medical officer of public health, says the number of active dropped from a peak of 4,875 in mid-January to just 860 as of March 30.

“It’s very encouraging to see that,” Wong said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“We are back to where (we were) in November … when we had that low number of active cases.”

According to Indigenous Services Canada, a total of 246,675 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered in 612 First Nation, Inuit and territorial communities by the end of March.

While the number of new COVID-19 cases has been spiking elsewhere across the country, Wong said there’s been a downward trend in Indigenous communities because of vaccinations and public health measures.

More than 50 per cent of adults living in First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities have already received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine — four times higher than in the general adult population in Canada, he said.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday that the vaccine uptake has been high, despite the complexities involved in delivering them to Indigenous communities.

“We are succeeding thanks to the continued collaboration and strong partnerships of Indigenous leaders,” he told a news conference.

Miller said more than 70 per cent of the population in the northern territories has already been vaccinated.

“Nunavut, in particular, has now received enough doses to vaccinate three quarters of their adults, and over 20,000 total vaccine doses have been administered.”

Miller said all eligible Indigenous adults should have received their first dose by June 30.

Wong said the high vaccination rates in First Nations communities are contributing to fewer outbreaks, although some are still occurring.

“We can’t be complacent. The reason why is that the variants of concern are much more transmissible,” he said.

“If we get complacent, then we’ll let our guard down (and) the variants of concern will rapidly spread.”

Miller stressed the low number of COVID-19 cases doesn’t mean people should ignore public health measures.

“A third wave is coming, and we must remain vigilant,” he said.

The B117 variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom is the dominant variant now spreading in Canada.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both mRNA vaccines, are very effective against this variant, Wong said. He predicted the continued vaccine rollout should allow Canadians to get to a “new normal” this summer.

“We look forward to having enough people vaccinated, together with all of the public health measures, to be able to get to that stage in the coming months.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Increased COVID-19 activity brings vaccine clinic to Enderby

Registration opens Tuesday, April 20 for May clinic for anyone over the age of 18

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

Seth Blackburn is recovering in Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops from a serious dirt bike accident on April 11, 2021 in which he was impaled by a small tree top. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm teen recovering from horrific dirt bike crash

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help family while one parent unable to work

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

A strange odour at a West Kelowna apartment building prompted the evacuation of 150 residents on Sunday morning, April 18. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
‘Do not occupy’ order lifted, residents of West Kelowna apartment allowed to return home

The building was evacuated early Sunday morning due to a strange smell

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

Vernon Search and Rescue’s helicopter team was asked to be on standby to rescue a missing hiker in Naramata. (Air Rescue One/VSAR photo)
Lost hiker rescued in Okanagan Mountain Park

COSAR, PENSAR, and VSAR worked together to rescue a hiker in Okanagan Mountain Park

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

courts
Penticton man guilty of assaulting young boys

Bryan Lamb was found guilty of two counts of assault

Abandoned Rail Brewing Company, located at 1220 Davenport Ave. on the KVR trail, has applied to the City of Penticton for a manufacturing facility and lounge endorsement. The city will review the application in their April 20, 2021 council meeting. (City of Penticton photo)
A new brewery could be coming to the KVR trail in the South Okanagan

The patio would seat up to 113 just 10 feet from the trail

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Most Read