Communication in traditional languages crucial to COVID vaccine rollout

Dr. Kami Kandola, NWT chief public health officer from October 2020. (File phot/CKLB)

The chief public health officer (CPHO) met with Indigenous governments on Wednesday to strategize the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Details of the vaccination plan aren’t yet available, but Dr. Kami Kandola, CPHO, did mention communication strategies are a major subject for the plan.

“One common theme is they are asking that we provide them information on the vaccine in Indigenous languages,” Dr. Kandola says.

This is particularly important as Elders are identified as a priority group for the vaccine.

This will likely be done radio ads in various languages, but she adds engagement with the communities will be critical.

Dr. Kandola oversaw the 2009 H1N1 vaccine distribution across the territory.

For the COVID-19 vaccine Dr. Kandola says there will be mobile teams — as there were were in 2009 — that will enter the communities to administer the vaccine.

But she says the mobile teams in 2009 were criticized for not engaging the communities, something she plans to do differently this time around.

“Some of the communities said the mobile team came, they touched down, they vaccinated people and they left,” she explains. “There was there wasn’t [any] engagement with the community, or even inviting community members to help them out with the vaccine rollout.”

Dr. Kandola says she hopes to find healthcare workers who speak Indigenous languages for the communication plan. Mike Westwick, spokesperson for the COVID-19 coordinating secretariat, says the GNWT has an Indigenous Languages Secretariat that will play a major role in the vaccine’s rollout.

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Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is a graduate of Carleton University's bachelor of journalism program. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at