Sask. First Nation holds Vaxx Fest to boost vaccination rates
Onion Lake Cree Nation is hosting an event called Vaxx Fest to raise vaccination rates.
“The event is really held for the young people to encourage them to take the vaccine,” said Onion Lake Health Board Inc. health director Albert Jimmy.
Jimmy said Vaxx Fest is complete with “with bells and whistles” to promote COVID-19 vaccination.
A professional event planner, One West Events, has been brought in to host the event at Sakāskohc High School.
Vaxx Fest includes incentives like swag bags, entertainment and opportunities to meet Indigenous social media influencers including Team Ahkameyimok from the Amazing Race Canada, comedian YouTube star Conway Kootenay, entertainers Fawn Wood and Dallas Waskahat and TikTok creator Brett Moowa.
Only 36 percent of OLCN residents were vaccinated with the first dose and 28 percent with the second dose as of September.
Jimmy said the OLCN band council and their health team decided to create the event after they heard of similar events working in other communities.
They also made the vaccine more accessible by extending clinic hours and hosting pop-up vaccine clinics.
“Diversifying the response did help increase the vaccination rates,” said Jimmy.
OLNC vaccination rates are now up to 54 per cent for the first dose with a target of 85 percent for both doses.
Two Indigenous doctors will also be at the event to provide education about the vaccines and answer questions from the public.
Jimmy said OLCN supports vaccination for its members and has been providing incentives like a chance to win weekly cash prizes of $1,000 in a draw for those who receive their vaccines.
The band has also held several pop-up vaccines and the vaccine is available at the health clinic.
“We should all know that vaccines help. It minimizes serious illness. Hospitals are filling up with unvaccinated people. That tells us that the vaccine works,” Jimmy said.
Although the event is geared at teens and young adults, people of all ages are welcome to attend.
VaxxFest is at Sakāskohc High School on Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
An estimated 6,000 people live on OLCN and about 4,780 of those are band members.
Other residents include spouses and children that don’t belong to the Onion Lake band but reside on Onion Lake.
Onion Lake Cree Nation has about 7,000 members.