It is vital to have inclusive, collaborative research involving Indigenous community members, their lived experiences and their history in this country, says PHRI Senior Scientist Sonia Anand, principal investigator of the COVID CommUNITY – First Nations (FN) study.
First Nations communities in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario are partnering with PHRI in the study to better understand the immune response and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in FN people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and have worse outcomes from COVID-19 infection compared to other populations in Canada.
Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, a large Cree community in north-central Saskatchewan, says “research partnerships for initiatives like this one involving First Nations working with other First Nations communities, PHRI, and University of Saskatchewan researchers, will increase capacity within our communities to more effectively deal with COVID-19 impacting our community presently.”
At the Wendake Huron-Wendat Nation community near Quebec City, Clinical Nursing Advisor Manon Picard notes that “the results of the study may allow us to make certain hypotheses about the reasons that make First Nations peoples more susceptible to contracting the disease. This partnership will allow us to have quantitative tools to support our claims about the benefits of the vaccine for our population.” Laval Universitie researchers are involved in the Wendake arm of the study.
Lori Davis Hill, Director, Six Nations Health Services – within the Six Nations of the Grand River community in southwestern Ontario (Canada’s largest FN community) – says “collaborating with PHRI to conduct this investigation of COVID-19 immune response and vaccine hesitancy within our territory will help establish important and crucial COVID-19 data. This data, in turn, will assist us to provide the proper supports to our community members, and help win the continued fight against COVID-19.”
The Government of Canada is investing $1.5 million in this study through the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.