The top doctor at British Columbia’s First Nations Health Authority says she is “hopeful” all Indigenous adults in the province will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the second phase of the immunization program. (Pixabay)
Interior Health has said to its community partners it won’t be organizing flu clinics moving forward, starting this fall. (Pixabay)

The top doctor at British Columbia’s First Nations Health Authority says she is “hopeful” all Indigenous adults in the province will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the second phase of the immunization program. (Pixabay) Interior Health has said to its community partners it won’t be organizing flu clinics moving forward, starting this fall. (Pixabay)

B.C. First Nations Health Authority hopes all Indigenous adults vaccinated in Phase 2

The province has so far only committed to vaccinating Indigenous adults over 65

The top doctor at British Columbia’s First Nations Health Authority says she is “hopeful” all Indigenous adults in the province, including those who don’t live on reserves, will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the second phase of the immunization program.

B.C. has so far only committed to vaccinating residents of First Nations communities and other Indigenous adults over 65 in Phase 2, despite the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommending that all Indigenous adults be vaccinated during that stage.

However, Dr. Shannon McDonald, the acting chief medical officer of the First Nations Health Authority, said “active planning” is underway to expand the eligibility to more Indigenous adults who live away from their home communities in the coming weeks.

“It has been an ongoing discussion with government, but there’s more flexibility being shown,” McDonald said. “The conversation has gone on and what’s developing, though it’s not all written in stone yet, is a hybrid model.

“We have the advantage now that there is vaccine available and lots more vaccine coming available in the next while.”

She said the “hybrid model” would allow for extra doses to be sent to First Nations communities so that their health workers could immunize Indigenous people who live nearby but aren’t members. These locations could hold drive-thru clinics or take other measures to minimize the risk of outsiders travelling into the community, she added.

McDonald also said the health authority is working with the Metis Nation British Columbia, the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and other organizations that serve Indigenous people, which would hold clinics in their facilities.

Though she wasn’t yet able to provide specifics such as the number of doses allotted or the Indigenous communities that might help distribute the vaccine, McDonald said she expected announcements to be made in the next week or two.

Phase 2 is set to end April 12 and McDonald has said more than 100,000 people identify as Indigenous and don’t live on reserves in B.C. Asked how realistic her expectations were, the doctor said that’s why she’s using the word “hopeful.”

“People will have options and I think that’s the important piece in the discussion,” she said.

She said the plan didn’t mark so much a change in policy but an “evolution,” and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been supportive.

“There isn’t a single path to this, but we’ve been very blessed that our regional health authority partners, our provincial partners and especially Dr. Henry is absolutely on board.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended that Indigenous adults be prioritized in the second stage because the population has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and suffers from more underlying conditions.

The B.C. Health Ministry said in an emailed statement that it aligns with the committee guidelines “in terms of prioritizing Indigenous Peoples for vaccination.”

“Our shared goal is to offer vaccination to as many Indigenous Peoples as quickly as possible,” it said. “As vaccine supplies improve, it will be likely be possible to move through the vaccination rollout even more quickly.”

The ministry did not confirm that any imminent changes are planned, but affirmed its existing policy that Indigenous people will be eligible for vaccination at an age 15 years earlier than other residents.

Indigenous-led vaccine clinics are beginning next week in locations such as Lu’ma Medical Centre and Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society to help serve eligible residents, it added.

“At this time, given vaccine availability, the focus for all Indigenous adults is specific to on-reserve communities, however the province will consider a whole community approach in situations where a community is experiencing ongoing clusters and outbreaks,” it said.

The entire community of Prince Rupert, which has a sizable First Nations population, is currently undergoing such a vaccination drive, for example.

The ministry said it expects all Indigenous adults who live on reserve will have been offered a vaccine by March 31. To date, 143 of 203 First Nations communities have held immunization clinics.

First Nationsvaccines

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

Just Posted

road closed
Mudslide closes Penticton road

Eastside Road is closed in both directions, take Highway 97 instead

Photo: pixabay.com
Morning Start: What does space smell like?

Your morning start for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Pasta Factory on Martin Street was helped by the city to create patio space. (Facebook)
Penticton’s patio push is on, with Pasta Factory joining the party

City of Penticton is getting creative to help local restaurants

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Penticton’s Nanaimo Avenue Bridge is set for removal in July 2021. (Jesse Day - Western News)
No replacement for Nanaimo Avenue Bridge this year

Council voted to add consideration for a replacement to a future budget

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

Shuswap businesses dependent on  tourism are bracing for further details of travel restrictions expected to be announced by Friday, April 23. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
B.C. travel restrictions create uncertainty among North Okanagan-Shuswap businesses

Sicamous mayor to ramp up campaign against licence plate hate

The site of a proposed water bottling facility referred to in a groundwater licence application is in the vicinity of this intersection. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Concerns raised over water licence application in Salmon Arm for bottling water

Neighbours want to know more, city councillor concerned about commercial use of public aquifers

Sheldon Pierre Louis’s winning mural design, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.” (Facebook: Okanagan Nation Alliance)
Syilx artist selected as winner of Kelowna Gospel Mission’s mural project

Sheldon Pierre Louis was also awarded $10,000 for his winning submission, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.”

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Most Read