News Release

National Association of Friendship Centres

The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) is urging Indigenous peoples to get immunized against COVID-19 as the Delta variant advances harm in our communities during the fourth wave this fall.

“We are not yet out of danger. We are extremely concerned that urban Indigenous communities have comparatively low vaccine uptake”, says Jocelyn Formsma, Executive Director, National Association of Friendship Centres. “The Delta variant is more contagious and harmful than the original strain of the virus which our communities are still recovering from. Vaccines, while imperfect, are the most effective tool that we have to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities”

The vaccine uptake from Indigenous peoples living in urban, rural and northern communities is much lower than First Nations living on-reserve and the general public. Métis physician and public health scientist, Dr. Janet Smylie anticipates that lower rates of vaccine uptake among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis living in urban and related homelands will result in disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 infection and severe illness over the next 4 months. 

“I recognize that many Indigenous people have good reasons to be cautious about Western medicine. However, if ever there was a time for action during COVID-19 it is now” said Dr. Smylie, “Low vaccination rates in our communities leave our elders, children, and those with weaker immune systems at risk of COVID-19. If you are still undecided about COVID-19 vaccination, I am urging you on behalf of not only yourself, but for our elders and children, to seek out a trustworthy healthcare provider who can answer your questions.”

National Association of Friendship Centres launched the Take Action in COVID campaign on August 18th, 2021 in partnership with Well Living House to provide education, dispel myths, demonstrate the safety, and efficacity of the vaccine and to encourage urban Indigenous people to get vaccinated.

“We recognize our role as a trusted source of information for our communities. We have been listening without judgment to remove barriers so that people can feel confident in making informed decisions” says Formsma “Despite personal views on vaccines, the truth remains that COVID rates are distressingly high amongst our people.”

Every week we are seeing more people get COVID, getting very sick and dying, but even worse, while sick, they have been spreading the virus to others, including those who cannot yet be vaccinated or have low immunity. As more of our people are driven into the health care system, they are open to all the same issues of racism and lack of culturally relevant health services. If we do not act now to protect each other, we are opening our communities to great losses for years to come. We have a tool right now, that is the vaccine, that we can use to slow the spread and prevent even more and deadlier variants from emerging.

We want our communities to feel empowered to ask questions, have conversations about the vaccine and what it can mean for you and your loved ones.

About the National Association of Friendship Centres

The National Association of Friendship Centres represents over 100 local Friendship Centres and Provincial/Territorial Associations in every province and territory in Canada (except Prince Edward Island). Friendship Centres are urban Indigenous community hubs that provide a wide range of programs and services for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people living in urban, rural, and northern communities. Collectively, Friendship Centres are the largest and most comprehensive urban Indigenous service delivery network in Canada.

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