Cowichan Tribes holds three-day COVID vaccine clinic, hundreds immunized

Cowichan Tribes holds three-day COVID vaccine clinic, hundreds immunized
Skye Ryan/CHEK News
Hundreds of Cowichan Tribes members have finally received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine thanks to an urgently organized three-day immunization clinic.

Hundreds of Cowichan Tribes members have finally received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine thanks to an urgently organized three-day immunization clinic.

“It’s such a relief, it’s so exciting. I’d say a huge sense of relief for my community,” Cowichan Tribes Coun. Stephanie Atleo told CHEK News on Saturday.

The Cowichan Tribes has been holding immunization clinics for their general population since Friday after receiving an emergency shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

Those over 18 and living on- or off-reserve in the Cowichan Valley or in a household with a Cowichan Tribes member have until Sunday to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

“It feels more safe than before,” Keith Jones, a Cowichan Tribes member.

The immunization clinic comes days after the Cowichan Tribes learned a scheduled shipment of the vaccine was not expected to arrive for at least two weeks, despite the fact that the community has been dealing with an outbreak of COVID that has killed four people since January.
Both the First Nations Health Authority and Island Health advocated for the vaccines and Cowichan Tribes and an emergency shipment ended up arriving Wednesday.

“Honestly, I think it was just the support of everybody coming together, recognizing that our numbers were increasing and all our outside community partners wanting to come out and support Cowichan as much as they possibly could,” said Marnie Elliott, associate health director with Cowichan Tribes.

Since Friday, an estimated 850 members of the Cowichan Tribes received their first dose of vaccine.

“We’ve had a very steady flow from the community coming to get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine today,” said Fairlie Mendoza, a community health nurse with the Cowichan Tribes.

With the immunization clinic entering its final day tomorrow, even more Cowichan Tribes members will have the chance to get vaccinated. Elliot said it is an exciting moment for the community.

“It’s incredible,” said Elliot. “We just were blown away and filled with adrenaline because we are just so happy and excited.”

In addition to these first doses, Cowichan Tribes expects to administer a total of 661 second doses to elders next week, which is one week earlier than they expected.

“I’m not only doing for myself, I’m doing it for my family and the community because I work at the [Cowichan Tribes] daycare,” said Cowichan Tribes member Roberta Charlie, who is planning on getting her second dose next month.

While there is excitement among community members, officials are warning that physical distancing and mask-wearing will need to continue for months, even after the second doses have been administered, in order to reduce transmission of the deadly virus.

“We certainly are very concerned about COVID transmission continuing to be very active,” said Mendoza.

RELATED: Cowichan Tribes confirms fourth death due to COVID-19

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