The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccinations to Cowichan Tribes is expected to arrive on Tuesday, Jan. 12, with the first doses planned for Wednesday.
“We’ve been informed by Island Health that we are likely to receive the vaccines today,” Cowichan Tribes general manager Derek Thompson said on Tuesday morning. “We will begin with the roll-out of vaccinating our members tomorrow.”
Cowichan Tribes has been hit hard by COVID-19. The first cases in the First Nation were discovered on Jan. 1, and as of Monday, Jan. 11, there were at least 70 cases. Chief and council issued a shelter-in-place order on Jan. 6 that will last until at least Jan. 22.
Under the order, all members are required to stay at home. Access to residential areas and residential buildings on reserve land is restricted. Barriers and checkpoints are being set up to enforce the order and provide information.
Residents may only leave their homes for work, school, medical appointments, to get groceries, medicine or other essential items, or to care for a family member who is ill. Households are asked to designate one person to go shopping, and to limit shopping trips to once per week. If possible, they should order over the phone and have essential items delivered to their homes.
Residents are not permitted to gather or hold events indoors or outdoors with people from outside their household.
Island Health told Cowichan Tribes to expect 600 doses of the vaccine, which will require recipients to get a follow-up shot at a later date.
Members over the age of 60 will be first in line for the vaccine.
“Our priority is vaccinating elders in the community,” Thomson explained. “We will make every effort to provide 600 doses tomorrow.”
The largest First Nation in B.C., Cowichan Tribes has about 5,000 members. Thompson doesn’t have exact numbers, but he estimates there are about 400 members over the age of 60.
Cowichan Tribes used a drive-up clinic to deliver the flu vaccine in the fall of 2020, and about 1,000 members took advantage of that. Thompson expects to use a similar format to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, with a clinic set up outside the administration buildings on Allenby Road.
Word that the vaccines will be delivered has been met with a positive response from the community.
“In line with our COVID-19 response plan, we made a commitment to be completely transparent and accountable,” Thompson said. “And that has been reciprocated with gratitude.”
The Tribes government is cautiously optimistic. “We are certainly excited,” Thompson said. “But we acknowledge this is another step in the process. For months, maybe even another year, we will still have to maintain Bonnie Henry’s directives to keep everyone safe.”
For more information about the vaccine roll-out in Cowichan Tribes, Thompson advised members to monitor cowichantribes.com, the Cowichan Tribes Facebook page, and the Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre Facebook page.