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

A partial image from the painting Kanaka Creek by Eric Hotz, which in the exhibit at the Pitt Meadows Art Gallery.
A Study of Nature exhibition opens at Pitt Meadows Art Gallery

Eric Hotz paintings feature familiar scenes from across the Lower Mainland

Shannon Belsito took this photo on Thursday morning, indicating the true arrival of spring. “Feeling the inspiring beauty and freshness of spring with these gorgeous magnolia blossoms near Kanaka Creek that just popped after the rain.” (Special to The News)
SHARE: Spring has arrived in all its splendor

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

A small memorial to Rich Goulet was started at Pitt Meadows Secondary after his recent death. (Neil Corbett/The News)
LETTER: Rename Pitt Meadows school gym in coach’s honour

Rich Goulet was considered one of the provinces best basketball coaches and died recently

Doug Nolin, a Maple Ridge senior, snapped this picture of his pet pigeons taking flight down by the old Albion ferry dock. “What a beautiful land we live in,” he said. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Chirp, chirp: Ridge senior captures pigeons taking flight

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Pamela Franklin captured this picture of a raccoon in Maple Ridge, “chilling” in her backyard, on her storage bin. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Lounging in the spring sun

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Most Read