Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island set to receive COVID-19 vaccines this week

A white sign with a stop sign on it outside of a First Nation reserve.
Lockdowns have become common on First Nations reserves across Vancouver Island during pandemic. Photo by Lauryn Mackenzie.
Lisa Cordasco - CHLY - NanaimoBC | 05-01-2021

Vaccines have started rolling out in six first nations communities on Vancouver Island.

British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, says the remote communities are a priority because they do not have critical health care facilities and are ill-equipped to manage outbreaks:

Just over 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine is being made available in selected First Nations communities in BC this week, including several on Vancouver Island that have battled COVID-19 outbreaks. Vaccines are being offered to everyone over the age of 18, with the exception of pregnant women and nursing mothers.

The vice-chair of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council says the vaccines' arrival has brought a sense of excitement and hope to the communities, but Mariah Charleson says with hope, comes some vaccine reluctance, as well:

Charleson says it helps that the vaccine is being administered by First Nations nurses who are culturally sensitive. She says community leaders, including Chief Robert Dennis of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, have been among the first in line for inoculations, to demonstrate the vaccine is safe and effective. The province has said it plans to immunize close to 9,000 indigenous people in remote BC communities by the end of January and close to 15,000 more by the end of March.

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