Former MLA Kevin Chief, Manitoba NDP leader get COVID-19 vaccinations at new urban Indigenous clinics

A prominent former Manitoba MLA delivered a message Thursday for anyone who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, but has yet to get one.

“We need you,” said Kevin Chief, who joined Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew in getting the jab at new urban Indigenous vaccine clinics that opened on Thursday.

“Please get this vaccine as soon as possible,” said the former NDP MLA for Point Douglas, who is now a community development adviser with True North Sports and Entertainment. “It’s so, so important.”

Chief got his vaccination at the newly opened clinic at the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre on Higgins Avenue in Winnipeg — one of two in the city aiming to provide vaccines for Indigenous people living in urban centres and people experiencing homelessness or living in precarious housing.

“The only word I can use is ‘excited.’ I’m so excited that … we’re here, and that we opened today,” Chief said.

“I got to say, we all know that vaccines save lives, and I 110 per cent trust this.”

Chief got his COVID-19 vaccination from Dr. Barry Lavallee, the medical advisor for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak health entity Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin. (CBC)

The Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre is one of two Winnipeg community organizations the Manitoba government has partnered with to provide the new Indigenous-led immunization clinics.

Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre also opened its clinic at Win Gardner Place on McGregor Street in Winnipeg’s North End, where Kinew got his vaccine Thursday morning.

Chief received his from Dr. Barry Lavallee, the medical advisor for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak health entity Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin.

Indigenous communities in Manitoba have been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the deaths of two Indigenous people in their 20s from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus were announced.

As of Wednesday, more than a third of Manitoba’s known active cases were First Nations people, according to the Manitoba First Nations pandemic response co-ordination team.

All Manitobans age 50 and over, and First Nations people 30 or older, are now eligible to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine. Everyone 40 or older can book an appointment for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at a pharmacy or doctor’s office.

In addition, all people over the age of 18 who live in several areas of Winnipeg, Brandon and some eastern Manitoba communities designated as COVID-19 “hot spots” are now eligible for vaccination. Those who work in certain public-facing jobs in those areas are eligible as well.

And all people living and working in northern Manitoba can also book a vaccination appointment.

Another Indigenous-led clinic opened in Brandon earlier this week, with two more set to open in Portage la Prairie and Thompson next week.

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