First Nations up to five times more likely to contract COVID-19, experts say
TORONTO – Rising COVID-19 rates in the remote Ontario community of Kashechewan highlights how hard the virus has hit First Nations.
The current rate of positive COVID-19 cases on First Nations reserves as of June 1 is 188% of the rate of the Canadian population – although the death rate is 61% of the rate of the Canadian population, according to Indigenous Services Canada.
“It’s no surprise that more people in First Nations communities are affected by COVID-19,” Lynne Innes, president and CEO of the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, told CTVNews.ca. “I have worked in many remote First Nations and have seen the issues and the struggle with lack of infrastructure, overcrowded housing and water issues.
A report released Thursday shows that since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 31,300 cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves and more than 1,400 hospitalizations. There are also currently 868 active cases of COVID-19 in these communities, with the proportion of cases in Kashechewan representing around 25 percent of all active cases on First Nations reserves.
“This community has been hit hard by COVID-19,” Innes said. ” In our region [northern Ontario], the majority of cases – I say at least 80 percent of our cases – are children between the ages of 12 and 17.
HOW DOES EACH REGION COMPARE?
Alberta reported the most cumulative cases to date with a total of almost 8,800 cases and closely followed by Manitoba. Although Ontario has accumulated a total of just over 2,600 cases, 56 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported this week in First Nations communities across the province and 212 cases last week.
Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said these communities were hit hard in Wave 2, and while cases are starting to slow down, it’s important to stay vigilant.
“Knowing what science said, in general, indigenous peoples [are] 3.5 to five times more likely to contract and experience the worst effects of COVID-19, ”Miller told CTVNews.ca. “There’s a pretty bright light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
WOMEN 20-39 AT HIGHER RISK
Throughout the pandemic, people in First Nations communities aged 20 to 39 reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases, accounting for over 30% of cases. Positive cases of COVID-19 have been particularly observed in women in this age group.
Currently, 687 First Nations communities are vaccinated. From Friday, nearly 589,000 doses were administered, 39% of injections administered being a second dose.
Miller said more than 80 percent of adults have now been vaccinated with a single dose, and about 72 to 73 percent for people 12 and older. But, there are still concerns for the younger population who have contracted the virus and who are unable to get vaccinated.
“We have worked with Chief Leo Friday and his community to secure isolation tents and medical tents, as well as with the armed forces where Rangers have been active since June,” he said. “We will stop at nothing to help them. “
As vaccinations continue in First Nations communities, more than 40 percent of people have been vaccinated with two doses. With the support of the Rangers and the continued vaccination efforts, Miller said he hopes everyone who is ready to get a full vaccination by the fall and curb the spread of the virus on First Nations reserves.