A Tsilhqot’in First Nation chief is criticizing the province’s vaccine roll-out and looking for answers as his community awaits a second dose of the Moderna vaccine.
“No one’s talking,” Tl’etinqox First Nation Chief Joe Alphonse said Friday, Feb. 26. “I want some leadership, and that includes from the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). I want to know who’s responsible.”
It’s been 42 days since approximately 300 members of the Tl’etinqox First Nation received their first dose of the vaccine in their community. Alphonse said he has no word on when they will receive their second dose.
“We need the second round. This is complete mismanagement.”
Alphonse said he was honoured that First Nations were made a priority in Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine program, and acknowledged the move is a ‘small step’ toward reconciliation. He added, however, the reason First Nations are a priority for the vaccine is because they are vulnerable due to the many challenges they face such as housing.
“We have 15 to 20 people living in one house. If one person gets infected and there’s no where to house them they infect everyone in the house.”
Alphonse said at Tl’etinqox, which he said is the largest First Nations community in the Interior, there were 53 cases of COVID-19 and two female elders lost to the disease.
Housing, clean drinking water and community safety and policing remain some of the top challenges for First Nations communities across the country, he said.
When contacted by Black Press Media, a spokesperson with Interior Health Authority noted vaccine delivery was a question for the FNHA, which provides the vaccine to the Tl’etinqox First Nation. The FNHA is responsible for planning, designing, managing and funding the delivery of First Nations health programs across British Columbia.
Black Press Media has reached out to the FNHA, however, they were not immediately available for comment.
On Feb. 16 Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. health officials have been closely monitoring data from other countries and from Quebec, which has delayed its second dose by months, to learn about the effects of delaying the second dose. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses.
“This delay of several weeks between the first dose… and the second dose… does not have a negative impact on vaccine effectiveness,” Henry said.
“We know we have a buffer where we can safely delay the second dose.”
Henry said that most people who received the Pfizer shot will get their second one within a 42-day window, but those who got the Moderna shot may have to wait longer due to the intervals between shipments. Overall, 4000-6000 people will get their second shot outside of the 42 day window.
– with a file from Katya Slepian, Black Press Media