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

City staff has passed an order requiring remedial action on a building that was severely damaged by fire last fall. Trevor Crawley photo.
City council orders remedial action on vacant buildings damaged by fire

City council has issued a remedial action order relating to vacant buildings… Continue reading

At the library
At the Cranbrook Public Library

By Mike Selby The Library is now open with extended hours (with… Continue reading

Candice Marie Neale was last seen by her family on May 5, 2021 around 11p.m. Cranbrook RCMP are asking anyone who sees Neale to contact police. (Submitted file)
UPDATE: Previously missing Cranbrook woman located, found safe and sound, says RCMP

Candice Marie Neale was reporting missing on Monday, she has since been found

Sisters Becky McArthur and Robin Hansen are the owners of Twisted Peaks, which marked its first birthday, May 11, 2021.
Twisted Peaks marks first birthday

Happy first birthday to Twisted Peaks, the frozen yogurt shop that began… Continue reading

GoByBike week takes place in Cranbrook from May 31st to June 6th. There are several challenges to participate in for the chance to win prizes, and the championship title. (Townsman file)
GoByBike week in Cranbrook returns at the end of May

Ride your bike to school or work between May 31st and June 6th

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Laketown Shakedown has been rescheduled for 2022, with options for ticket holders to receive refunds or credit for future events. (File photo)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Experts now predict 33.6% rise in B.C. home sales for 2021

BCREA economists also predict home prices to increase by 14.3%

B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup in 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. didn’t effectively manage conservation lands program: auditor general

Michael Pickup says staff had limited approaches to resolving the unauthorized use of the most at-risk conservation lands

The majority of city council votes in favour of this design for a new Salmon Arm flag on Monday, May 10, 2021. (City of Salmon Arm image)
Majority of council salutes new flag for Salmon Arm

Two councillors raise concerns about logo being too corporate for a flag

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read