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President Kudloo urges all Inuit youth to get the COVID-19 vaccine when their turn comes

OTTAWA, March 17, 2021 — A video released today to promote vaccination awareness to Inuit youth living in Inuit Nunangat and urban centres across Canada features a message from Annie Buscemi, a popular Inuk social media influencer, about why she plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The video is part of an ongoing public education campaign by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada to raise awareness among Inuit women and families about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada. 

“From the historic mistreatment of Inuit with tuberculosis to present-day systemic racism when Inuit seek health services, Inuit have many reasons to hesitate about getting the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit. “As well, many youths think they are invincible, and that they won’t get very sick even if they get COVID-19. Since Inuit youth will soon be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Pauktuutit felt it was important to engage young women role models, like Annie Buscemi, who can speak directly to their peers and possibly other youth across Canada too, because none of us are safe until all of us are safe,” she said.

“I was honoured to be asked to be part of Pauktuutit’s campaign,” said Buscemi. “Like many Inuit youth, I’m very close to my grandparents who have taught me so much and continue to support my wellbeing.  Getting the COVID-19 vaccine means I can safely see them, as well as help protect other Elders and my community.”  

Many older people across Inuit Nunangat have already received one dose of the Moderna vaccine. Others, like President Kudloo who lives in the remote community of Baker Laker, Nunavut where there is only a small health clinic staffed by a nurse and chronic overcrowded housing, have received two doses. As well, in some cities like Ottawa, where many Inuit are just as vulnerable as those in communities up North, older Inuit have also been prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“What many people don’t realize is that the life expectancy for Inuit in Canada is 10-17 years less than for the general population,” said Connie Siedule, Executive Director of the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Centre in Ottawa. “This means many Inuit living in urban centres are most at risk of serious health consequences, including death, if they contract COVID-19,” said Siedule. Earlier this year, Silatik Qavvik of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, tragically died in a Winnipeg hospital after contracting the virus. The 35-year-old had travelled to Winnipeg in November to deliver her newborn daughter but died in January from complications of COVID-19, leaving her five young children without a mother.

Pauktuutit’s six-month vaccination awareness campaign is funded by a $340,000 grant from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE). The campaign includes newspaper and radio ads, as well as a social media campaign targeting young people and the distribution of 5,000 masks across Inuit Nunangat and urban centres. 

“The health, safety, workforce participation and representation of Inuit women is important for all Canadians,” said the Hon. Maryam Monsef, Minister of WAGE. “To date, my department has funded eight projects supporting Inuit women, including organizing a national conversation on gender equality, building capacity, engaging with men and boys to reduce Gender-Based Violence. Our government also invested $1.6 million to help eight Inuit women’s shelters keep their doors open and services available for those who need them.”

“And — to ensure every Canadian can get vaccinated when the time comes — we have secured millions of vaccines, with more shipment deliveries confirmed throughout March and a significant ramp-up through the spring,” said Monsef. “I would like to thank Pauktuutit and all of our Inuit partners for working on this successful vaccination awareness campaign. Our government will continue to work hand-in-hand with you as we get ready to put the pandemic behind us and build back better.”

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For more information, please contact:

Susan King: 613.724.1518 / sking@pauktuutit.ca or Cathie Whittaker: 613.762.7729 / cwhittaker@pauktuutit.ca

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