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Uncovering SARS-COV-2 vaccine uptake and COVID-19 impacts among First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples living in Toronto and London, Ontario

Smylie J, McConkey S, Rachlis B, Avery L, Mecredy G, Brar R, Bourgeois C, Dokis B, Vandevenne S, Rotondi MA. CMAJ. 2022; 194(29):E1018-26. Epub 2022 Aug 2. DOI:

Background — First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples across geographies are at higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 because of high rates of chronic disease, inadequate housing and barriers to accessing health services. Most Indigenous Peoples in Canada live in cities, where SARS-CoV-2 infection is concentrated. To address gaps in SARS-CoV-2 information for these urban populations, we partnered with Indigenous agencies and sought to generate rates of SARS-CoV-2 testing and vaccination, and incidence of infection for First Nations, Inuit and Métis living in 2 Ontario cities.

Methods — We drew on existing cohorts of First Nations, Inuit and Métis adults in Toronto (n = 723) and London (n = 364), Ontario, who were recruited using respondent-driven sampling. We linked to ICES SARS-CoV-2 databases and prospectively monitored rates of SARS-CoV-2 testing, diagnosis and vaccination for First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and comparator city and Ontario populations.

Results — We found that SARS-CoV-2 testing rates among First Nations, Inuit and Métis were higher in Toronto (54.7%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 48.1% to 61.3%) and similar in London (44.5%, 95% CI 36.0% to 53.1%) compared with local and provincial rates. We determined that cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was not significantly different among First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Toronto (7364/100 000, 95% CI 2882 to 11 847) or London (7707/100 000, 95% CI 2215 to 13 200) compared with city rates. We found that rates of vaccination among First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Toronto (58.2%, 95% CI 51.4% to 64.9%) and London (61.5%, 95% CI 52.9% to 70.0%) were lower than the rates for the 2 cities and Ontario.

Interpretation — Although Ontario government policies prioritized Indigenous populations for SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, vaccine uptake was lower than in the general population for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Toronto and London. Ongoing access to culturally safe testing and vaccinations is urgently required to avoid disproportionate hospital admisson and mortality related to COVID-19 in these communities.

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