Iqaluit's Annie Buscemi stars in a 41-second video produced by Pauktuutit to encourage Nunavut youth to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
image courtesy of Pauktuutit

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada has been encouraging Nunavummiut to get the Covid-19 vaccine, and to get that message through to youth, the organization has enlisted a social media influencer.

Annie Buscemi of Iqaluit, who Pauktuutit named as its Young Inuk Woman of the Year Award winner in February, appears in a newly-released video stating that she intends to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available to her.

Pauktuutit President Rebecca Kudloo lights a candle during a moment of silence in memory of Silatik Qavvik, a Sanikiluaq mother who died in early January from complications related to Covid-19.
image courtesy of Pauktuutit

“I believe (the vaccine) will tremendously help us protect our communities, our Elders and ourselves,” Buscemi says in the 41-second video. “Although this is such a scary time, I believe that if we stick together, we will be OK.”

Pauktuutit held a press conference with several federal ministers and national media on Wednesday to promote its ongoing “For My Community” public health safety and inoculation campaign, which has included the distribution of 5,000 masks over the past several months.

Rebecca Kudloo, the organization’s president, said she has received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, as have many residents in her community of Baker Lake. Those ages 18 and over are eligible to receive shots, but priority groups, including Elders, were first in line.

“Many youths think they are invincible, and that they won’t get very sick even if they get Covid-19,” Kudloo said. “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.”

During her presentation, Kudloo lit a candle and held a moment of silence in tribute to Sanikiluaq’s Silatik Qavvik, a 35-year-old mother of five, who died in Winnipeg on Jan. 3 after contracting Covid-19.

“We acknowledge her and offer strength for her family,” she said.

Dr. Evan Adams, deputy chief medical officer with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch headquarters in Ottawa, said Inuit are among the targetted population to receive the vaccine because higher prevalence of the virus and because it’s harder to access health services in geographically isolated Northern communities.

He admitted that there is a distrust and hesitation to get inoculated among some Indigenous people due to sometimes not having “the best relationship with research or with the medical system, where they’ve had difficult, painful experiences in the past.”

However, he pointed out that support from medical personnel has also led to many positive outcomes in many lives.

Side effects related to the vaccine have been few and mostly mild, said Adams, who added that the medical community is willing to respond to the public’s questions about the vaccine.

“I just want to assure everyone that our safety monitoring of this particular vaccine around the world is unprecedented internationally,” he said. “I think that that scrutiny by us … is a very good thing.”

Minister Mona Fortier, who oversees the federal portfolio of Middle Class Prosperity, acknowledged that Covid-19 has affected certain communities more than others, including Inuit, First Nations and Metis. The federal government has provided millions of dollars in financial aid to Nunavut during the pandemic and is sponsoring Pauktuutit’s vaccine education campaign. Fortier also spoke of the Government of Canada’s commitment to build five emergency shelters for Inuit women and children who have been displaced by family trauma during the pandemic, to help them “regain an independent and self-determined life.”

Buscemi, who has close to 12,000 followers on TikTok, said she’s honoured to be part of the vaccine promotion campaign.

“I especially want to encourage Inuit youth to get the vaccine and feel proud that we are doing our part to help everyone get through the pandemic,” she said.

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