Bourassa to take Indigenous lead on immunity task force
- EFN Staff | May 08, 2020
A Saskatoon-based Metis health researcher will be the Indigenous lead for a new federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force measuring how widely the virus has spread in Canada.
Carrie Bourassa, scientific director of the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, said it is important for Indigenous people to be included in the country-wide blood test surveys.
“We may be more susceptible to the COVID19 virus because we may be living with co-morbidities; living in poverty or overcrowded environments and/or sub-standard housing; living in rural and remote communities with decreased access to health care, including lack of intensive care unit beds and ventilators,” she said in an email interview.
The COVID-19 Immunity Task Force will provide reliable estimates of possible immunity and vulnerabilities in Canadian populations, she said.
It has a 2-year mandate which began on April 28th.
As the Indigenous lead, it is Bourassa’s responsibility to ensure that Indigenous peoples are not only engaged in providing advice to the task force but also leading the studies.
She said that First Nations, Inuit and Metis representatives are already engaging with the working parties provided input about testing, population, cohorts and immunity studies.
“We are developing effective mechanisms to ensure that their advice on Indigenous issues, concerns and engagement is provided to the Task Force Leadership group on an ongoing basis,” Bourassa said.
“I am honoured and humbled to be able to serve First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities,”
On a different front, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has established a COVID-19 (C-19) National Task Force that is different from the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, which is focused solely on the blood test studies.
The AFN’s task force will gather a broad range of information to keep AFN leadership up to date on COVID-19 related health, emergency management, communications, legal and policing issues.
“The AFN Executive Committee has established the AFN C-19 National Task Force…to provide information, updates, analysis and recommendations as required during this pandemic,” National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a media release.
“This is a time of crisis and uncertainty. First Nations must have access to timely and accurate information and we need to over-communicate. The AFN C-19 National Task Force will be a valuable asset in this effort. We will continue to push all governments to engage directly with First Nations and to act on our unique needs.”
The AFN C-19 National Task Force, which has a 60-day mandate, will be Co-Chaired by Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who holds the Emergency Management Portfolio for AFN, and Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek, who holds the Health Portfolio.
“The work of the AFN Task Force is critical. I know from my work on Emergency Management that First Nations will be facing additional challenges on top of this unprecedented pandemic,” stated Regional Chief Hart. “We can’t only react; we need to be ready. This Task Force will play an important role in that approach.”