Indigenous communities in the province are among the first to receive the vaccine for COVID-19, nearly a year after the first cases were recorded in the province. People are lining up in droves with grateful smiles as they roll up their sleeves to receive the vaccine that, in time, promises a return to ‘normal’ life. But health officials are warning people that they must continue to avoid gatherings.
“Having the vaccine is a big tool in our toolkit,” said Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer for the First Nations Health Authority. “We have to continue to do the things that we’ve been encouraged to do to stay safe. To avoid gatherings, to hang out in your family bubble, to wash your hands, to wear a mask when you’re in public. All of those things are absolutely necessary now and for the next while.”
As of Jan. 12, just over 4,100 vaccines have been administered in First Nations communities around the province. It is estimated that more than 60 Indigenous communities will have received the vaccine by the end of January.
To date, there have been more than 2,000 positive cases of COVID-19 among First Nations people in BC with 600 cases being active.
Until 75 per cent of the general population has been vaccinated, there is still a risk to communities, according to the FNHA. Health authorities do not know whether those that have been vaccinated can carry the virus to those that have not received the vaccine.
It takes two doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to reach full immunization. The second shot is administered three or more weeks after the first one.
“Even immediately after you get the vaccine it'll take seven to 10 days before your body has developed enough immunity to protect you against COVID. So especially during that period it's very important to continue with all the public health measures that we know," Dr. McDonald stated.
New strains of COVID-19 have reached Canada, but Dr. McDonald assures people that the existing vaccines are effective against these different varieties of the virus.
To date the following Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation communities have received the first dose of Moderna: Ahousaht, Ehattesaht, Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h', Huu-ay-aht, Hesquiaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht and Nuchatlaht. Ditidaht and Toquaht will be hosting vaccination clinics this week for their community members.