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

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

BC CDC data showing the geographic distribution of COVID cases in the province. (BC CDC photo)
One new case of COVID-19 in Golden

Cases continue to surge in surrounding areas

The Golden Golf Club will open for a new season on the links beginning April 24. (Claire Palmer photo)
Golden Golf club eyes April 24 start

The golf course is supporting local businesses with the driving range and mini-golf

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

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

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

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to a truck fire on Dallas Road in Vernon April 15, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
WATCH: Vernon firefighters quick to douse fully involved truck fire

The fire was near multiple structures and spreading along the ground upon crews’ arrival

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

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

Fire crews tend to a collision that is causing severe traffic delays on the William R. Bennett bridge headed east into Kelowna. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
7 vehicle collision on WR Bennett Bridge under investigation

The collision backed up traffic on the William R. Bennett bridge for much of the morning

Kelowna company celebrates milestone of producing 46 million masks in under a year.
46 million masks and counting: Kelowna company reaches 1 year milstone

In under a year, Breathe Manufacturing Ltd. in Kelowna has hit production of 46 million masks for front-line workers

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna RCMP investigating hit and run involving 11-year-old

Police said the boy suffered minor injuries

Most Read