Connecting Indigenous Peoples to informed choices with COVID-19 vaccines

Vaccination photo courtesy of Circle of Eagles Lodge Society.

by Shelley Mantei

(ANNews) – First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Canada are continuing their efforts in responding to COVID-19. They are joining ancient and contemporary practices to change the course of history by surviving and thriving during the pandemic.

As of January 25, 2022, over 86% of individuals aged 12 and older in First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities have received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Over 43% of youth aged 5 to 11 have received at least one dose.

Beyond the pandemic’s effect on health, there is often a crisis within the crisis as unequal distribution of vaccines extends the pandemic further. This is not the case in Canada, where Indigenous Peoples are included among priority groups receiving the vaccine. This serves as a way of addressing historical inequities making Indigenous Peoples disproportionately more vulnerable to viruses.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis have access to vaccines through many clinics across the country. Plus, if First Nations peoples and Inuit need to travel out of their community to get to their vaccination or booster appointment, the applicable travel costs will be covered by non-insured health benefits.

While access to the vaccine is not a barrier, many Indigenous people are still experiencing vaccine hesitancy most commonly due to confusion with conflicting information. The Circle of Eagles Lodge Society has created culturally-relevant resources to fully enable individuals to make informed decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are not here to judge anyone’s choices. We’re here to work with our Indigenous community to help everyone make informed choices that are right for them,” said Merv Thomas, CEO of Circle of Eagles Lodge Society.

Circle of Eagles Lodge Society (COELS) operates Indigenous halfway homes in Vancouver, BC on the Coast Salish territory to assist Indigenous Brothers and Sisters leaving Canadian federal institutions and those dislocated from society. For over 50 years, COELS has provided supports to reintegrate them into communities by providing men’s and women’s residences, pre-employment programming, cultural healing, and life skills.

Their COVID-19 decision-making resources range from education on variants, vaccine comparison charts, a review of side effects and likelihood, to tips on how to audit trusted sources to avoid misinformation.

“People can make informed choices about their health and well-being by asking questions, participating in fireside chats and expressing their feelings about COVID-19 vaccinations, and leveraging science-driven experts.”

Thomas cautions, “Listen to scientists not social media. Do your own research with trusted sources and make informed choices that blend education along with lifeways, customs, and spirituality driven by the ancestral force.”

Some of the best ways to identify trusted sources are to go beyond the headlines, identify the author, check the date, examine the supporting evidence, check your biases and turn to fact-checkers.

Health experts say Indigenous communities in Canada can be at greater risk than other groups during a pandemic. Canada wide, Indigenous communities are taking actions such as using masks, physically distancing, and vaccination to protect their community, Elders and family.

Circle of Eagles Lodge Society resources are available at



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