A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Westerly file photo)

‘A historic time’: 18 remote First Nations communities in B.C. get COVID-19 vaccine

25,000 doses delivered in first wave

The First Nations Health Authority said they are “very pleased” that 18 remote and rural First Nations communities were considered top priority during the first wave of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

“This is an important development and a sign we’re turning to a new phase of hopefullness in facing this pandemic,” said FNHA CEO Richard Jock in a Zoom press meeting Wednesday (Jan. 6) afternoon.

Approximately 25,000 members of remote First Nations communities are scheduled to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from December to February. The B.C. government’s rollout plan considers these isolated communities to be among the top priority groups, along with long-term care workers and residents, paramedics and hospital health workers.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shannon McDonald said reaching this point is a full year’s work in the making. McDonald said throughout the pandemic, communities have been concerned especially for elders, who are not only the most vulnerable to COVID-19, but also cultural pillars, holding knowledge and preserving languages.

RELATED: North Island First Nations update COVID-19 response after ‘Auntie Bonnie’s’ recommendations

Dr. Becky Palmer, FNHA chief nursing officer, said the first doses have been delivered in a “culturally safe, acceptable and humble way.”

“It is a historic time with tremendous partnership across all layers of the system to get us to today,” Palmer added.

FNHA senior medical officer Dr. Nel Wieman said through the pandemic restrictions on social gathering and cultural events has hit First Nations communities especially hard.

“This hope is here that eventually things will change and we will be able to gather together again for cultural activities and ceremonies,but it is not that time yet,” Wieman added.

Weiman said the vaccine distribution doesn’t come without apprehension among First Nations communities. From historical factors such as medical experimentation in residential schools to more contemporary issues of systemic racism in health care, she acknowledged there are several reasons some may hesitate to take the vaccine.

“”We have been made a priority and have confidence in that vaccine,” she said. She added a variety of messaging is in the works; Palmer is expected to film an informational video on the vaccine later this week.

McDonald said the FNHA wants to balance individual choice to get the vaccine with being able to deliver enough doses to create effective immunity.

“This is their choice; it’s not a mandatory vaccine and we want to help people understand it’s their choice,” McDonald said. “People aren’t unaware of the risks, but we have to balance their concerns and risks with the knowledge we’re giving them.”

McDonald expects a majority of First Nations community members to take the vaccine, even with this non-mandatory approach.

RELATED: Nuu-chah-nulth nations on Vancouver Island hit hard by COVID-19

“They’re very much interested in taking care of each other as much as themselves,less individualistic and more about community wellness,” she said.

Palmer added the FNHA has built strong relationships with community members in being available to answer questions related to COVID and the vaccine.

“We want to walk alongside them in their journey, and that’s created a tremendous response in terms of feeling comfortable,” Palmer said. “It’s just a really solid way to build going forward together.

Wieman urged First Nations communities yet to receive doses to take heart.

“Don’t be discouraged by having to wait,” she said. “This is an immense operation. Everybody who wants the vaccine will get the vaccine.”

An additional 25,000 vaccine doses for First Nations communities are planned for February and March. These doses are part of 792,000 of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be distributed through March. As of Monday, Jan. 4, the province has received approximately 54,000 doses; officials expect an additional 16,000 this week.

The following First Nations communities have received 5,300 doses as of Monday:

  • Ahousaht (520)
  • Ehattesaht/Chinehkint/Nuchat laht (110)
  • Gitga’at (200)
  • Gitxaala (400)
  • Huu-ay-aht (110)
  • Iskut (300)
  • Kitasoo (300)
  • Klahoose (60)
  • Kwadacha (300)
  • Kyuquot (140)
  • Lax Kw’alaams (600)
  • Mowachaht/Muchalaht (190)
  • Namgis (770)
  • Tahltan (300)
  • Takla (200)
  • Tsay Keh Dene (200)
  • Ulkatcho (600)

Government reports say the second vaccine doses will be administered about 35 days after the first. As of Wednesday, McDonald said no other community names have been released yet.

Alhtough vaccination is a milestone in fighting the pandemic, Wieman cautioned the public to remain vigilant in following measures preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“This past year has been a challenge for everyone,” Wieman said. “Our communities are working very hard to keep people safe. Ultimately, we will all get through this.”


 

@ashwadhwani
adam.louis@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusFirst NationsHealthcarevaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lowering the flags is official protocol following the death of a member of the British Royal Family, according to Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne. (Spotlight photo)
Town flags lowered out of respect for Prince Phillip

The practice follows official protocol when a member of the British Royal Family dies.

Twin sisters Kyla, left, and Jordyn Bear have accepted scholarships to play at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York for this upcoming fall. The 17-year-olds dream of playing together for Canada in the Olympics one day. (Jesse Johnston/CP photo)
Lake Country twins inspire Indigenous hockey players

Grade 12 George Elliot Secondary students Kyla and Jordyn Bear earn hockey scholarships at NCAA Division 1 school

The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A in Princeton

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

RCMP cruiser, no date.
Threats against RCMP lead to high-risk situation in Ashcroft

Distraught man made threats directed at police, potentially had access to firearms

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $82M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

A Canada goose honks at other birds at Salish Park on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Goose addling program underway in Vernon

2021 cull applications in process as addling program enters 15th year

The Columbia Valley Wetlands are known for their extensive and fragile ecosystem. (File photo)
Wildsight speaks out against logging in Columbia Wetlands

Located 50 kms south of Golden, the proposed operation was justified as bark beetle management

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The Vernon Pickleball Association spotlights member Don Friesen ahead of National Volunteer Week (April 18-24, 2021). (Vernon Pickleball Association)
Volunteer praised by Vernon pickleballers

Marshall Field pickleball complex wouldn’t be possible without dedicated volunteer hours: VPA

Most Read