Fort Chipewyan’s leaders recently sent 287 unused doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to Fort McMurray to ensure off-reserve members had a chance to be vaccinated.
The community had a surplus of vaccine doses that were about to expire. Leaders collaborated with the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) and Alberta Health Services (AHS) to ship out extra doses.
When the Covid-19 vaccine rollout was in its early stages, some Métis leaders in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area said they worried their communities would fall through the cracks.
The first phase of Alberta’s immunization plan left out many Métis Elders not living on Métis settlements. Rural hamlets that were mostly Métis were also left out, since they were not considered Métis settlements by the Alberta government.
Now, Métis Elders say they are pleased to be included in the current round of vaccinations. Peter Hansen, an Elder with the McMurray Métis, is looking forward to seeing his community and Elders get vaccinated after a year of being “cooped up.”
“The more and more people who get the vaccine, it’s going to be great for everybody,” said Hansen. “We’re trying to get back together and just having coffee, tea and bannock. Just get out and socialize.”
Hansen received his vaccine, one of the extra doses from Fort Chipewyan, on March 5.
President Kendrick Cardinal of Fort Chipewyan Métis Local #125 said leaders had specifically chosen to include McMurray Métis in this vaccination effort.
“Fort Chipewyan has a lot of members that moved to Fort McMurray,” said Cardinal. “That’s why we ended up going that route.”
Chief Peter Powder of the Mikisew Cree First Nation said it was important to get doses to off-reserve members before they expired.
“We care about our off-reserve people,” said Powder. “It was really successful. It was non-stop people coming through the doors to get vaccinated.”
In a March 5 statement, McMurray Métis chief executive Bill Loutitt said people were “beyond grateful” to have received Fort Chipewyan’s vaccine surplus.
“We look forward to getting the rest of our members and our staff fully vaccinated so we can all gather safely again as a strong, resilient and Indigenous nation,” said Loutitt.