A financial incentive to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is being offered by the Bearspaw First Nation for residents of the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

Two grand prizes of $2,500 each have been contributed through the Bearspaw First Nation Travel Centre and Bearspaw First Nation Service Centre. All Stoney band members of Bearspaw, Chiniki, and Wesley Nations over 12 years old who are eligible to be vaccinated will be entered into the draw. To collect the prizes, proof of vaccination will be required.

The draw is being made on July 30 at 12 noon.

Bearspaw CEO Rob Shotclose says offering an incentive had been discussed widely within Stoney Nakoda.

"Just on our own, Bearspaw First Nation decided to go ahead and put it out there and make it open to the membership of any of the three nations," says Shotclose. "So, hopefully, we'll get a few people who are on the fence about getting vaccinated to go ahead and get vaccinated, and they'll be eligible to receive a prize."

He believes Stoney Nakoda is close to the provincial uptake level.

"We're getting good uptake, but we could always do more so we can get that herd immunity."

Stoney Nakoda officials continue to be proactive in encouraging residents to be vaccinated.

"I know the health centre has been doing their best to get excitement and entice people as well," says Shotclose. "They did a good ceremony in front of the health centre in Morley, and they got some good press as well."

On June 17, residents had the opportunity to  "Get Vaxxed with Clara and Beckie." Canadian Olympians Clara Hughes and Beckie Scott visited the Stoney Health Centre to welcome those who were being vaccinated and to sign autographs.

Hockey great Hayley Wickenheiser had also hoped to attend but instead sent her best wishes in a recorded message.

There has an upsurge in active COVID cases in Stoney Nakoda. On June 19, two new cases were reported, for a total of 109 current cases. Eight deaths have been attributed to the deadly virus. 

On June 15, Dr. Chris Sarin, Deputy Medical Officer of Health of Indigenous Services Canada, expressed concern over the high numbers.

In his message, he urged people to be tested and to be vaccinated.

"We understand that this is a difficult time, but continued adherence to all public health guidelines is important in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the community," Dr. Sarin states.

"The health and safety of Morley community members remain our top priority. We remain committed to working with leadership during this very difficult time."

Vaccinations are available for residents at Stoney Health Centre in Morley, Stoney Trail Wellness in Eden Valley, and Bighorn Health Centre in Bighorn.

Morley Vaccination eventOn June 17, a successful "Get Vaxxed With Clara and Beckie" vaccination event was held. (Photo/Stoney Health Services Facebook)