First Nations woman in B.C. wants Indigenous people prioritized for 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses

·3 min read
B.C. First Nations woman is wondering why the wait for Indigenous people to get access to second dose vaccine is months (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
B.C. First Nations woman is wondering why the wait for Indigenous people to get access to second dose vaccine is months (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

A First Nations woman living in B.C. is wondering why Indigenous people aren't being fast-tracked for their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, unlike other provinces.

Amanda Coe, an Abenaki woman living in Vancouver, said she finds it odd that Indigenous people in B.C. aren't being prioritized for a second dose, when they were prioritized for the first.

Ontario's revised vaccine roll-out plan prioritizes Indigenous people, including those in urban areas, for their second shot within 28 days of the first. Manitoba has also announced Indigenous people would be eligible for second doses within three- to four weeks of their first, depending the type of vaccine, starting Monday.

Coe said she was hopeful that B.C. would follow suit.

"I feel like we're kind of in the dark right now," she said.

"Indigenous people were accelerated for the first round. What's happening for the second round?"

She said she's concerned because she is immunocompromised.

"I completely understand that Canada has up until now been in a supply shortage situation. So the decision was to get as many people with the first dose as possible to at least have good protection or partial protection," she said.

"Waiting 12 to 14 weeks, is that in the end going to hurt or harm us?"

On March 3, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended extending dose intervals to up to 16 weeks for COVID-19 vaccines to optimize early vaccine rollout and population protection in Canada in the context of limited vaccine supply.

The vaccine manufacturers' schedules for second doses are 28 days for Moderna, 21 days for Pfizer-BioNTech, and four to 12 weeks for AstraZeneca-Oxford.

'Elders are like libraries'

Leah George-Wilson, chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which is located only 11 kilometres outside of North Vancouver, said that over 600 vaccine doses were delivered to the community in March.

"We want to achieve community immunity,'' she said.

Tsleil-Waututh is set to begin receiving their second doses in June.

Leah George-Wilson, chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation near Vancouver.
Leah George-Wilson, chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation near Vancouver.(CBC)

George-Wilson said getting the community vaccinated hasn't been easy.

She along with leadership from the Musqueam and Squamish nations had a series of meetings with Vancouver Coastal Health, the B.C. Health minister and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), to get enough vaccine for the three communities.

"I had to go to the table and press really hard for our communities to receive the vaccines in a timely fashion," George-Wilson said.

She said it was necessary to protect the community and in particular their elders and knowledge keepers.

"Elders are like libraries. They hold so much and we actually have lost a number of elders in the last year," she said.

"It's really hard when you think about what knowledge went with them."

The FNHA said in an emailed statement there has been dialogue and expressed interest from First Nations on shortening the interval between first and second doses.

"With this in mind, we are in the midst of working with communities on the logistics for scheduling second dose clinics."

The Ministry of Health said the government has prioritized administering vaccines "based on age and those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, while following NACI guidelines.

"Since the province's Indigenous population was prioritized from the beginning of the program, they will start to receive their second doses soon. Second doses are being administered between 13 and 16 weeks after the first dose."

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