March 19, 2021

Nursing students and instructors help immunize Indigenous seniors in Calgary

Indigenous-led clinic in Sunalta neighbourhood aims to vaccinate up to 400 seniors in 3 weeks
Circle of Wisdom Elders & Seniors Centre
Circle of Wisdom Elders & Seniors Centre Courtesy of Circle of Wisdom Elders & Seniors Centre

An Indigenous-led immunization clinic for Indigenous seniors opened March 15 at the Circle of Wisdom Elders and Seniors Centre in the Sunalta neighbourhood of Calgary with immunizations provided by some UCalgary Nursing students. Its objective is getting as many as possible of Calgary’s Indigenous seniors aged 65-plus vaccinated against COVID-19 in a culturally safe environment. A cleansing ceremony with Elders from the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary (AFCC) and the Circle of Wisdom for volunteers and staff took place on Friday, March 12.

The AFCC, Siksika Health Services, Circle of Wisdom Elders and Seniors Centre, OKAKI and Seven Brothers Circle have all partnered as national leaders in vaccine rollout for urban Indigenous people and worked closely with Alberta Health Services and the Government of Alberta to ensure health and safety measures are in place and enforced.

“The partners have a common denominator,” says Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services. “Our people trust us. Our Elders are the heart of our community, which is why we’re calling them directly to book appointments, walking them through what to expect at the clinic, ensuring they have transportation to the clinic, providing them with a care package when they leave, and following up with reminders about second dose appointments.”

"We are so excited to be brought into this opportunity by Alberta-based public health services and informatics company OKAKI," says Dr. Zahra Shajani, EdD, associate dean, undergraduate clinical practice education.

We recruited students and some volunteer former nursing instructors who will be administering the vaccine for the next three weeks. The hope is to immunize as many as 400 Indigenous seniors.

“Historically, urban Indigenous people would undergo immunization via the same process as the general population,” says Shane Gauthier, AFCC's CEO. “But this approach fails to consider the systemic racism and trauma our people continue to experience in the health-care system and why many of our people do not access health services.”