Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars called it a huge day as COVID-19 vaccines were provided to frontline workers and vulnerable members Jan. 26.
“There’s a sigh of relief that has washed over the community that we’re trending in the right direction,” Sellars said late Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s very encouraging to see the provincial and federal government, and agencies like Interior Health, First Nations Health Authority and Three Corners Health Services Society (TCHSS) all coming together and helping us get those vaccines delivered to our people.”
A total of 50 individuals, including Sellars were inoculated Jan. 26 at the Elizabeth Grouse Gymnasium, after WLFN cultural coordinator David Archie conducted a smudging ceremony for TCHSS nursing staff providing the Moderna vaccine.
Vaccinations will continue Jan. 27 and Jan. 28.
“The sun was shining, and as elder Virginia Gilbert would say, ‘My heart is glad’,” he said.
Vaccinations have begun!
We are grateful for our Cultural Coordinator, David Archie, who conducted a brief smudge ceremony to bless the work of our amazing nursing team!
“It has really uplifted my spirits and uplifted the spirits of the community that we are delivering the vaccines, and that’s going to mean that we’re going to be keeping people safe.”
While the 190 vaccines will not be enough to vaccinate all WLFN members Sellars said it would alleviate the growing worries of elders and those with chronic health conditions and compromised immune systems, as well as that of leadership concerned about their safety.
Just over 300 on-reserve members reside at the WLFN community of Sugar Cane
Because of the recent community outbreak and the overall number of positive cases, Sellars said he hopes the vaccination process will be expedited for his community, which was initially scheduled to receive vaccines in March.
More than 800 off-reserve members reside in cities such as Williams Lake, Kelowna, Kamloops and Vancouver.
“We’re going to do our best to take care as of much of the membership as we can in the coming weeks and months,” Sellars said.
Original Jan 26 10:30 a.m.: Limited quantities of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be available for on-reserve Williams Lake First Nations (WLFN) beginning Tuesday (Jan. 26).
“We’re very excited to share that as of today, we have 34 individuals who have completed their isolation and are considered recovered from COVID-19,” Chief Willie Sellars said in a Facebook update Jan. 25.
A total of 38 cases have been identified since the WLFN activated its emergency operations centre Jan. 8.
As the number of positive cases trends downward, testing has also slowed, with the Three Corners Health Services Society conducting just three tests on Jan. 25.
Sellars said WLFN would receive 190 COVID-19 vaccines by Moderna.
An appointment-only vaccine clinic will be held at the Elizabeth Grouse Gymnasium in Sugar Cane for elders 65 and older and those with chronic health concerns or vulnerable immune systems Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Sellars said clinics would follow it on Wednesday and Thursday and encouraged on-reserve WLFN members to contact the Three Corners Health Society’s nursing line to make an appointment.
Off-reserve members can also call to have their names added to a waitlist.
“We’re not going to be able to do everyone in this first run, but we plan on doing everyone in the coming months,” Sellars said, asking for patience.
WLFN government offices and Little Chiefs Daycare reopened under strict COVID-19 protocols Monday, Jan. 25.
Little Chiefs Primary School will remain closed until Feb. 1 and Sellars said educators and staff would be reaching out to parents and students to provide virtual supports.
The recreation program is also to reopen on Feb. 1.
A viewing for WLFN member Michelle Wycotte was held this past weekend under strict COVID-19 guidelines.
“Trying to find a balance there has been a challenge of course, and some people are upset, some people are sad, but keeping these circles as small as possible for the safety of the community is of greatest concern for Chief and Council,” Sellars said.
He said a sacred fire would be burning outside the home where WLFN member Byron Louie would sit until a celebration could be planned and Louie could be properly sent off to his next journey of life.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreak in community and the region, please do not use the fire to gather,” Sellars said, noting the fire is for the firekeepers.
“We’re trying to honour him and hold up our cultures and our traditions in the safest way possible.”
While Sellars said it is always hard, he said the resiliency and strength of WLFN is shining through, which can be seen through the current number of COVID-19 positive test results in which no new cases had been identified as of Jan. 25.