The first of six Tsilhqot’in communities will be receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week.
Vaccines were available west of Williams Lake in Yunesit’in (Stone) beginning Jan. 13 after community notices were distributed door-to-door to each on-reserve household with instructions and times for those 18 years or older wanting to receive it.
The Tsilhqot’in National Government anticipates vaccines, which will be delivered by the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), will be available to the remaining Tsilhqot’in communities in the upcoming weeks.
In a Jan. 12 Facebook video by Anaham Sage Health Clinic, Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse said close to 30 people in his community have been tested for the novel coronavirus. All test results have come back negative as of Jan. 12.
He asks his community to continue to pray and to fight to keep COVID-19 at bay by doing everything they can, including no visiting, wearing a facemask and washing their hands, as well as reminding family members of those requirements.
“It’s not that you’re disrespecting them,” Alphonse added.
“It’s that we love our community so much that we’ll do whatever we can to keep safe and to keep each other safe — that’s what this is about.”
Alphonse suspects the vaccine won’t be available to be administered in his community until Jan. 18.
Last summer the chief survived a heart attack requiring open-heart surgery and said he would get the shot.
Also preparing to see the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine roll out within his community on Jan. 18 is Xeni Gwet’in First Nation Chief Jimmy Lulua who called it a glimmer of hope for a return to some form of normalcy.
“Going through Christmas and going through the holidays, right now it’s the depression, so any glimmer of hope of this virus going away is a good thing,” Lulua said.
“The mental wellness of First Nations people right now is low.”
While Lulua confirmed he and his wife, mother and father would take the vaccine, he stressed it is everyone’s own decision to receive it or not and encouraged the public to educate themselves.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in neighbouring Indigenous communities such as Canim Lake, Nuxalk (Bella Coola) and Sugar Cane (Williams Lake First Nation), the gates to enter Lulua’s community approximately 150 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake where 240 members reside will be locked each night effective 9 p.m. Jan. 12.
As the pandemic continues to rage, Lulula said one thing they have been grateful for within the Nemiah Valley is its remoteness, which has allowed his members to continue to enjoy activities such as world-class horseback riding and fishing many others would envy.
“Even though the lockdown is here, COVID is out there, it didn’t really feel like our world changed very much,” Lulua said, noting he is also grateful for being able to go back to their traditional ways of smudging and being thankful for what they have.