Chief Simon John of Ehattesaht First Nation receives his first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 in this handout photo. First Nations across Canada have begun to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccines as provincial immunization programs get underway and Indigenous leaders encourage people to roll up their sleeves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ehattesaht First Nation *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Chief Simon John of Ehattesaht First Nation receives his first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 in this handout photo. First Nations across Canada have begun to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccines as provincial immunization programs get underway and Indigenous leaders encourage people to roll up their sleeves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ehattesaht First Nation *MANDATORY CREDIT*

COVID-19 vaccine arrives in remote First Nations across Canada

Indigenous Services Canada had confirmed nearly 10,000 cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities

First Nations across Canada have begun to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccines as provincial immunization programs get underway and Indigenous leaders encourage people to roll up their sleeves.

Six of 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island were priority recipients of doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week, said Mariah Charleson, vice-president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council that serves about 10,000 members.

The council employs nurses who are among those administering vaccinations so people see a familiar face they know and trust, she said.

Health officials need to work with communities to ensure the COVID-19 vaccination program is culturally appropriate, she said, given impacts of the residential school system and discrimination in health care as outlined in a recent report by former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

“There are many people in our communities who our nurses may not have ever seen, because (they) will just never go for help,” said Charleson.

Released in November, Turpel-Lafond’s report sheds light on widespread racial profiling based on harmful stereotypes that affect the care Indigenous patients receive in British Columbia. Of more than 2,700 Indigenous people surveyed as part of the investigation, 84 per cent reported experiencing some form of health-care discrimination.

It’s understandable that many are reluctant to trust Canadian health officials, said Charleson, who’s encouraging people to get vaccinated.

“If you’re not doing it for yourself, do it for the elders in the community and the vulnerable,” she said in an interview.

Chief Simon John of Ehattesaht First Nation said he noticed some hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccines among residents of the Ehatis reserve on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

The community of about 100 members was hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 that spread to 28 people last month, so when John learned they would soon receive Moderna’s vaccine, he decided to lead by example.

“For us, as council, to take it first was our priority,” he said.

John said he received his first dose last Monday along with about 30 other Ehatis residents and 40 people in the nearby village of Zeballos, including some elders and band members living off-reserve.

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to at-risk members of remote First Nations for distribution by the end of February. As of last Monday, 10,700 doses of Moderna’s vaccine were available to First Nations and 5,300 had been distributed to 18 communities.

READ MORE: ‘A historic time’: 18 remote First Nations communities in BC get COVID-19 vaccine

Indigenous Services Canada had confirmed nearly 10,000 cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities across the country as of Friday, including 3,288 active infections, 452 hospitalizations and 95 deaths.

Canada’s advisory committee on immunization has identified Indigenous communities among priority groups for vaccine that’s in limited supply.

In Alberta, residents of remote First Nations and people age 65 or older living in any First Nation or Metis community are among those the province is prioritizing in its third phase of immunization starting in February.

In Saskatchewan, 4,900 doses of Moderna’s vaccine have so far been sent to northern regions, where health-care workers, staff and residents of long-term care homes, and people age 80 or older are first in line to be immunized, including those living in First Nation communities.

Initially, “First Nations were not really engaged in terms of where this vaccine should be allocated,” said Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, medical health officer for the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority.

More recently, communication about vaccine distribution has improved between communities and the Saskatchewan Health Authority, he said.

The province said it’s expecting to receive 5,300 more doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, with smaller cities serving as regional distribution hubs.

Manitoba, meanwhile, began shipping 5,300 doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week in order to reach people in all 63 First Nations in the province.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusIndigenousvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Fentanyl was among the drugs seized by New Hazelton RCMP in a big bust in early January. (File photo)
New Hazelton RCMP arrest five, seize drugs and large amount of cash

Police find suspected heroin, fentanyl and crystal meth during early January drug bust

Smithers Local Health area reported 32 new cases of COVID-19 for the second week of January. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 32 in Smithers LHA Jan. 10 – 16

Northern Health reports 35 new cases for 501 active, 44 hospitalized, 17 in critical care Wednesday

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Smithers Secondary School students participate in a high performance workout in advance of the school becoming a campus of the Canadian Sport School. (Thom Barker photo)
Smithers Secondary chosen for campus of elite sport school

The Canadian Sport School provides supports and resources for high performance athletes

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Most Read