?Esdilagh First Nation (Alexandria) was relieved to finally receive its first round of coronavirus vaccines on Friday, Feb. 26.
“It’s quite frustrating the way things have been rolling out for our community in general,” Coun. Chad Stump said.
“All of our sister communities out west in the Chilcotin were all vaccinated and some of them are going through the second round of vaccinations, and today it’s finally the first day we got 30 vaccines for ?Esdilagh.”
The 30 vaccines were administered to high-risk elders at the community’s Chief Frank Joe Health Centre and chief and council forfeited their right to be inoculated first due to the limited number of Moderna doses delivered.
The small semi-remote Indigenous community situated along both sides of the Fraser River between Williams Lake and Quesnel entered lockdown in mid-January as the Cariboo Chilcotin region experienced an increase in COVID-19 activity, with several First Nations experiencing clusters or outbreaks.
As vaccines became available to neighbouring Tsilhqot’in and non-Tsilqhot’in communities, all ?Esdilagh could do was wait as the First Nations Health Authority deemed them low-risk, Stump said.
“That’s what it felt like for the longest time—?Esdilagh being forgotten. Just because there’s a smaller number of people doesn’t mean we’re not high risk. The coronavirus doesn’t care who you are or where you come from.”
Stump estimates between 150 people live on-reserve and within the reserve’s close vicinity and said the 30 vaccines are “a drop in the bucket.”
Variants have raised renewed concerns about resurgences and Stump said the community needs to make sure it is fighting to get more vaccines for people that are off-reserve and who are high-risk within the community.
He praised the health staff for their efforts and noted ?Esdilagh COVID-19 enforcement officers Daryl Johnny and former chief Roy Stump are making sure the community is adhering to the lockdown and following key guidelines in reducing the risk of contracting or spreading the disease.