COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Musqueam still waiting for COVID-19 vaccines
For almost two months, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) has told Musqueam to expect vaccines, but we have yet to receive a single dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.
Musqueam’s leadership and health department are still working hard to speed up delivery of vaccines, and secure vaccines for every community member who wants to be immunized.
As of February 22, 163,669 people have been vaccinated in BC’s Phase 1, including:
- residents/staff of long-term care facilities
- residents/staff of assisted living residences
- hospital healthcare workers
- remote/isolated First Nations
FNHA and the provincial government’s perceived lack of urgency to vaccinate Musqueam is largely due to our reserve being adjacent to the City of Vancouver, and therefore not considered a remote or isolated community. In addition, FNHA’s current vaccination distribution plan limits the number of doses First Nations receive to the number of registered members living on reserve as of the 2016 census.
Previously, the province committed to ALL of Musqueam receiving vaccines through Musqueam’s primary care clinic, including non-members and non-residents of Musqueam Reserve. Since then, the timelines for delivery have become muddled and the number of doses remains inadequate for our anticipated vaccinations needs.
Vaccine Registration for Musqueam Members
Although there is no confirmed date for vaccine delivery, Musqueam Health is preparing to hold COVID-19 vaccine clinics. All Musqueam members who want to be immunized are asked to register as soon as possible. Musqueam Health is recording which members are seeking a vaccine. This will help us estimate how many vaccine doses we actually will need to ensure everyone who wants a vaccine can get one through our primary care clinic. Read the vaccine page for more information.
First, immunization is reserved for Elders (ages 65+) and other priority populations who live on reserve. The second group to be vaccinated will be members living on reserve (ages 18-64) and Elders and other priority populations who live within travelling distance of Musqueam Reserve.
In the coming weeks, Musqueam Health will host online vaccine information sessions to provide insight on the vaccines, and answer any questions that members have about either the Moderna or Pfizer. More details to come.
MST leadership lobbying for equal access to vaccines
Yesterday, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh collectively sent a letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer, and Dr. Penny Ballem, chair of Vancouver Coastal Health and the lead for BC’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The letter highlighted MST’s concerns that the government is deprioritizing our communities, while forcing paternalistic policies that limit who we can vaccinate within our communities.
In the letter, MST leadership raised four points of concern:
- Slower access to vaccine distribution for MST communities compared to other First Nations in BC. Our members living near reserves prefer to access services on reserve because of the trust in, and relationship to, their community. While our communities are considered ‘urban’, there is significant stigma and discrimination in urban healthcare, and many of our members still rely on medical services provided on reserves. They know they won’t face racism or discrimination in our clinics.
- Unjust or prejudicial treatment towards MST members living off reserve. The current vaccine program discriminates by limiting initial vaccinations to only registered band members who live on reserve. Many MST members live on our traditional territories, in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Delta and beyond, but outside of our reserve lands. Many non-band members live in our community and are family members of band members. The government is forcing First Nations to create a divisive, two-tiered approach to immunization that we do not condone.
- The paternalistic approach to vaccinating First Nations that betrays our government-to-government relationships and our Nations’ self-determination. The current approach is unilaterally dictated by government and designates vaccine quantities based on 2016 census data. This data is determined through an external, third-party assessment overseen by government agencies and does not respect our right to self-determination. As First Nations governments, we should provide our own current data about our estimated vaccination needs.
- Increased risk if the current approach is not adjusted. ALL community members are at a higher risk and must be vaccinated to protect everyone. ALL our members and their families are at a higher risk and vulnerable.
In the letter, MST leadership requests immediate action to avoid further discrimination, a meeting with Dr. Henry and Dr. Ballem, as well as:
- a whole-of-community approach to vaccinating our members who live on or near our reserves, and our frontline staff who are operating critical community services.
- timely access to vaccines, and an increased supply based on our own vaccine needs assessments.