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

Janice Maurice, president of the South Cariboo Museum Society, and vice-president Peter Brandle, hope to see the Clinton Museum reopen its doors this spring. (Kelly Sinoski - 100 Mile Free Press).
Clinton Museum anticipated to reopen this year

Society board waiting to hear from province on health orders.

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

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Interior Health hospitals not strained by rising COVID case counts

While provincial hospitalizations rise, health care systems in the B.C. Interior remain robust, say officials

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Last year’s flood season stretched from April through early July, as this picture of flooding at Cache Creek park on July 4, 2020 shows. With area snowpacks at slightly above normal, temperatures and rainfall will play a role in determining what this year’s flood season looks like. (Photo credit: Tom Moe)
Snowpacks in area slightly higher than normal as freshet starts

Temperatures and rainfall are critical flood risk factors in coming weeks

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

Most Read