BC First Nations say COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan challenged by supply, priority group designations

Dr. Shannon MacDonald stands at a metal podium with a microphone at a press conference.
First Nations Health Authority acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. Photo courtesy of FNHA.
Lisa Cordasco - CHLY - NanaimoBC | 16-02-2021

Vaccine delivery delays are having an effect on immunization roll out plans by the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA).

The FNHA says it has delivered 16,000 doses of vaccine to 90 first nations communities in BC so far, and is using up the few remaining doses in a dozen more communities this week. The acting chief medical officer for the health authority says it needs 22,000 more doses to provide coverage in all 203 first nations communities in BC. Dr. Shannon McDonald says BC's Ministry of Health has assured her that goal will be met by the end of March.

The Ministry allocates British Columbia's vaccine supply to health authorities, including the First Nations Health Authority, for distribution. McDonald says so far, the Ministry of Health has not guaranteed a supply specifically for Indigenous people who live off reserve:

 

3,000 Indigenous people who live off reserve have been vaccinated to date. But there is no agreement about where off reserve members stand on the province's priority list.

McDonald says the FNHA has prioritized vaccinations for all on reserve members over the age of 18, but provincial health authorities are focused on delivering vaccine, starting with those over 80 years of age. That difference in approach is a sticking point in discussions about when Indigenous people who live off reserve will get their vaccine:

 

Meanwhile, the FNHA says there are currently 426 active cases of COVID-19 among Indigenous people both on and off reserve in BC. As of Friday, there have been 68 deaths.