B.C First Nation expected to achieve ‘community immunity’ through COVID-19 vaccination efforts

Click to play video: 'Tsleil-Waututh Nation inch closer to COVID-19 community immunity'
Tsleil-Waututh Nation inch closer to COVID-19 community immunity
Hope is on the horizon for one B.C. First Nation. The community is keeping COVID-19 case numbers low through hard work. And now hundreds of members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation are stepping up, to protect their elders, by getting vaccinated. Kylie Stanton reports – Mar 25, 2021

Hope is on the horizon for the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation as hundreds of members are vaccinated against COVID-19 in an effort to achieve “community immunity.”

“We vaccinate everyone because ‘community immunity’ means everyone,” Andrea Alec, health and wellness director for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which is located on the North Shore, said.

“We take care of everyone as a whole.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have only been 19 cases among members.

Tsleil-Waututh Councillor Jen Thomas was one of them.

“It’s something that I don’t wish on anybody,” she said. “It’s scary.”

The case count is considered a success story, given larger outbreaks reported in other First Nations.

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Click to play video: 'Cowichan Tribes battles COVID outbreak'
Cowichan Tribes battles COVID outbreak

Tsleil-Waututh community member Sam George said while it has been worth it – it has also been difficult.

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“Because strength is family, and our strength is having everybody here to contact with and now we don’t.”

“You can’t help but feel depressed at times,” said Reuben George, another community member.

“Because we need that connection with one another.”

The Tsleil-Waututh people consider family ties and interconnectedness their strongest pillars, but COVID-19 has challenged that.

The first clinic, which was held March 10 for the nation’s elders, was the first time many members had seen one another in more than a year.

Returning to their way of life is now palpable, and largely what continues to drive the turnout.

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The opportunity to operate the clinics on the reserve was also a factor. It provides a sense of security for members, following the publication of In Plain Sight, a report that revealed Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination in B.C.’s health-care system.

“So, there’s that sense of safety for our people to not be discriminated against when they’re receiving their vaccines,” Alec said.

Once the 250 doses administered Thursday are in people’s arms, a total of 628 Tslei-Waututh members will have been vaccinated.

Restrictions won’t ease just yet. They will take their lead from B.C.’s provincial health officer.

Sam George said there is comfort in knowing it’s just a matter of time.

“It almost brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.”

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