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News ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Minor delays announced to second-vaccine shipment to Eeyou Istchee

BY Ben Powless Apr 10, 2021

A rapid rise in new cases in the Quebec City and Gatineau areas led the Quebec government to close schools and all non-essential commerce in these regions March 32, while also bringing back the 8 pm-to-5 am curfew.

Variants of the coronavirus were driving up cases in Region 2 (Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean) and Region 8 (Abitibi-Témiscamingue), but Region 10 (Nord-du-Québec) and Region 18 (Eeyou Istchee) have so far avoided the variants. 

Cree health officials said that the new variants posed a greater risk of transmission, and reports suggested that the new variants were resulting in more hospitalizations and more serious infections for younger people. 

Eleven new cases of Covid-19 were announced in Mashteuiatsh, bringing the total number of infected in the Innu community to 409, nearly 20% of the 2,100 residents. Another outbreak at the Eleonore mine seemed to have subsided, as all recent tests were returned negative and further safety measures were deployed. 

The Cree Health Board (CHB) said that Health Canada confirmed there would be a delay in receiving the second batch of Moderna vaccines, with the shipment now expected to arrive in the Cree territory as early as April 9.

According to Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services, this is still within the recommended 16-week period between the two doses. Those who receive their second dose will get a proof of vaccination, which other jurisdictions may require for access. Cree health officials stated their goal was to get as many people vaccinated with their second dose before Goose Break.

Over 10,000 vaccinations have been completed in the Cree communities, representing over 77% of the eligible population. However, the CHB noted that 40% of Eeyou Istchee is under 18 and not currently eligible for the Moderna vaccine, although there are studies underway to determine if the vaccine is safe for children. In the United States, the Pfizer-BioNTech was approved for those 16 and older due to different testing procedures. 

Cree health officials said that agreements have been made to provide vaccines for Cree students and beneficiaries in Outaouais, Estrie, Abitibi and Montreal, though they couldn’t guarantee they would receive the Moderna vaccine. Eligible individuals were asked to email 18TCR.ReentryVaccine@ssss.gouv.qc.ca for an appointment.

Travel is permitted between Cree communities for the first time to allow for visiting family members in other communities. Travel protocols remain in place, gathering information for anyone entering a community to protect family and community members. 

The only other regions considered safe for travel are Region 10, Region 17 (Nunavik), and Region 18. Otherwise, all other travel within Quebec or outside the province requires the mandatory 14-day self-isolation measures. 

Regions 2 and 8 remain in the orange zone, with a curfew from 9:30 pm to 5 am and a prohibition on all indoor and outdoor gatherings, bars closed, and restaurants allowing only two adults per group. Southern regions including the Laurentians, Lanaudière and Montreal remain in the red zone, where all gatherings are prohibited, and bars and restaurants are closed. 

All Cree communities have moved to deconfinement Phase 4, allowing for outdoor gatherings of up to 150 people or indoor gatherings of up to 50 people. 

The Clara bus arrived in Chisasibi to offer breast screenings to eligible women from Chisasibi and Whapmagoostui. The CHB said Sophie Air was not flying to Whapmagoostui this year, but eligible women from Whapmagoostui were able to get a flight to Chisasibi for a screening. 

As Quebec saw a 26% rise in new Covid cases in recent weeks, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that Quebec had entered its third wave of dealing with the virus. The news came after it was revealed that an outbreak in a Quebec City gym led to 70 infections. 

Quebec also sent Sec 3, 4 and 5 students back to school full-time, though some school boards rejected the effort as unsafe and continued to alternate between in-class and online instruction. 

After the National Advisory Committee on Immunization announced new guidelines cautioning about the potential for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to lead to blood clots, Quebec joined other provinces in halting distribution of the vaccine to people under 55. Over 110,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford virus had already been distributed in Quebec to 6,000 people under 55, but no incidents of blood clots were reported. 

Meanwhile Canadian health officials said that Pfizer-BioNTech will ship five million doses of its vaccine to Canada by June instead of late summer, so that Canada will receive 9.6 million doses that month. 

Health officials said that put Canada on track to receive 44 million doses by the end of June, allowing for all Canadians who want a vaccine to receive one by the end of summer. 

Across Canada, over 5.4 million vaccine doses have been administered so far. This came as Canada approached a million cases of Covid, with 22,899 deaths so far.

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.