New vaccine clinic looks to bolster rural immunization numbers in southern Alberta
CALGARY -- The Siksika First Nation is hoping to break down accessibility barriers by offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people in the surrounding area.
A new clinic will be giving out shots to people who live in Strathmore, Gleichen, Wheatland County, Vulcan County, and Newell County, starting Tuesday.
The announcement of the clinic comes after the province released an interactive map breaking down provincial data into smaller regions. Albertans are now able to see how many people in their communities have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The map also shows the divide between urban and rural centres.
The highest percentage of people protected with at least one dose, are areas in and around major cities. Health officials say numbers are lower in rural areas due to accessibility and proximity to vaccine supply. Vaccine hesitancy is also believe to be a factor in people from rural areas choosing not to get the shot.
The Siksika First Nation said it hopes that more individuals will opt to get the vaccine if it is more accessible and closer to home.
"It only makes sense to have a rural clinic," said Siksika Nation Chief Nioksskaistamik Ouray Crowfoot, in an interview with CTV News. " A rural clinic where our neighbours can come, (and) feel safe to an environment that is not over-crowded (or) over-populated.
"We wanted to be able to give our people and the surrounding communities the access, the accessibility, the comfort to be able to feel comfortable, to be able to come into a setting and to get vaccinated," he added. "We have the capacity here, we have the facility here, we have the nurses (and) we have the doctors."
Housed at the Deerfoot Sportsplex, the clinic will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pfizer and Moderna will be offered and, following the guidance of the ongoing provincial rollout, anyone 12 years and older can book an appointment.
Damitra Smokeyday and Katya Banks work in a group home with a Siksika organization. Both became fully vaccinated at the clinic on Tuesday, something they are supportive of.
"We have a lot of community members who do not have access to the city services so it's very important," said Smokeyday, "To keep the community safe, to keep the kids I work with safe and my family safe."
That sense of safety was echoed by Banks.
"It takes a lot of strain or fear off of me I think, even though it’s like 95 percent effective, I still feel better that I’m fully vaccinated now," she said. "Working with a Siksika organization, being able to get it faster since we’re essential workers, like we have to go to work, so it was nice to be able to get it faster for us too."
Residents of the surrounding communities who are interested in receiving a vaccine, are asked to register on the Siksika health website.