British Columbia

Vaccine should reach all B.C. First Nations by end of March, says health authority

To date, the COVID-19 vaccine has been made available in 90 of the province's 203 First Nations communities.

Rate of COVID-19 vaccination has slowed as a result of the vaccine shortage, but supply is expected to improve

The B.C.'s First Nations Health Authority says First Nation members living on or near a First Nations community should have access to a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

All those living in a B.C First Nations community should have access to a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine if they want it by the end of March, according to the First Nations Health Authority.

In a media briefing, Dr. Shannon McDonald, the FNHA acting chief medical health officer, said the broader vaccine shortage has slowed the roll out, but that supply was expected to improve.

"In the context of vaccine shortage, we have not been able to completely meet the goals that we have set, but we have used every single dose that we have been given to vaccinate as many people as possible, starting with our most remote communities," said McDonald.

McDonald said another 22,000 doses of vaccine were still needed to meet the March goal.

As of Friday, Feb. 12, the FNHA was reporting:

  • 426 active cases of COVID-19, 185 of those on or near reserve.
  • 68 total deaths from COVID-19, 38 of those on or near reserve. 
  • Approximately 16,000 people vaccinated in 90 communities.
  • Approximately 3,000 people vaccinated off reserve.
  • Vaccine is currently en route to another 12 communities.
  • Another 22,000 doses are still needed to meet the March goal.

McDonald said the number of active COVID-19 cases has dropped since a spike to over 1,000 cases last month, related to virus transmission at holiday gatherings. 

She said, so far, there have been no confirmed cases of virus variants in First Nations from the provincial officials monitoring the new strains.

First Nations have been hard hit by COVID-19 in parts of the province.  

In December, FNHA released data showing that on Vancouver Island and in B.C.'s Northern Health region, First Nations were contracting COVID-19 at more than twice the rate of the rest of the population. 

McDonald said the roll out strategy is to get vaccine to the most remote of B.C.'s 203 First Nations communities first, and then work inward.