Two Alberni Valley First Nations get their first vaccinations Thursday

Two Alberni Valley First Nations get their first vaccinations Thursday

Members of two Alberni Valley First Nations got vaccinated Thursday as part of the rollout for adults living in their communities.

The arrival of the first doses had many members of the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations celebrating.

“We’re glad we got it and we’ve been waiting for this for a long time so we’re happy to get it,” said Fred Johnson, a Tseshaht member.

The two communities are among the last First Nations on Vancouver Island’s west coast to get Moderna shots but they were enthusiastic that the day had finally arrived.

“It makes me feel that much better to have it and now I know that I’m a bit safer than I was 10 minutes ago. I feel good about it,” said Rudy Watts, another Tseshaht member.

Today, those over 18 years old, living in the two communities were eligible.

The immunizations come the same week that the provincial health officer extended the time between first and second doses to four months to ensure more people receive a shot quicker.

“It’s a big discussion throughout the country and in the province and I hope we won’t have to wait that long for our community members. I think that will heighten mental health issues and worry about it,” said Chief Ken Watts of the Tseshaht First Nation.

The change in policy was top of mind for many getting vaccinated Thursday.

“BC’s the only one doing it, right? The only one doing the four months and so basically we’re the guinea pigs to see how long it actually lasts,” said Erma Robinson, another Tseshaht member.

“I don’t mind four months. Other people can get their shots in between that time so that’s a good thing. I like that,” said Karen Johnson, another Tseshaht member.

Chief Ken Watts says his greatest concern is for Alberni Valley First Nations members who live close by but are still not eligible for vaccines.

“We have probably one to two hundred that live in Port Alberni literally across the bridge, five to 10-minute drive to come here, and so we have these lines that we didn’t create as reserves when really that’s our territory. They should be able to come over here and get their vaccine as well but we weren’t distributed enough to get all their vaccines,” said Watts.

It’s an issue Island Health said last week provincial health authorities were discussing as the vaccine rollout continues.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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