“I am being vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect myself, my elders, the youth and those who cannot get vaccinated." - Kevin O'Neill, Sumas First Nation (via Tsleil-Waututh Nation)
If the year 2020 felt like it would never end, then the first two months of 2021 have been just the “shot in the arm" that we needed to feel better.
Hopes are high as COVID-19 vaccine clinics have rolled out to rural and remote communities in BC and with the announcement this week of upcoming mass immunizaton clinics. Some Indigenous people have taken to our FNHA #VaxChamp pledge portal to share their reasons for getting vaccinated.
“[I'm] getting vaccinated for my two children that have compromised immune systems and I was a caregiver for my late grandfather that was battling cancer," writes Desiree Williams of the Takla Lake First Nation. “I'm doing it to keep my family safe."
Gina Wadhams of Namgis First Nations writes that two people in her community passed away from COVID-19 and that the vaccine will protect her family.
“I wanted to be vaccinated to protect myself, my parents, children and grandchildren from COVID-19," she writes.
Although the reasons may vary, the sentiment is similar: getting the vaccine will protect yourself, and your Elders, parents, children, and grandchildren. It's the best way to “get back to being with family and practicing our traditional ways," writes Chief James Harris of Seabird Island.
Dr. Shannon McDonald, Acting Chief Medical Officer at the FNHA, says that accepting the vaccine is always a personal decision. It's a decision she strongly recommends because it protects not only the vaccinated individual from serious disease, but everyone around them as well.
Although it's understandable if Indigenous people feel some vaccine hesitancy due to systemic racism in the health care system, Dr. McDonald says the COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested and will ultimately save many lives.
“In our First Nations communities, we are especially concerned about our Elders, our knowledge keepers and language holders," she says. “We want to make sure that we have the advantage of their presence in our lives for a long time to come."
One member of Snuneymuxw First Nation recalls the terrible toll that previous pandemics had on unvaccinated Indigenous people.
“We [Indigenous people] in 2021 have the opportunity to vaccinate," writes Denean. “I will not hesitate—our Ancestors [died] by the thousands due to a pandemic. #dontrepeathistory."
To date, more than 18,000 First Nations individuals in BC have received their first dose of the vaccine. Will you choose to be a #VaxChamp? Go to the VaxChamp pledge portal now, where you can upload a photo or download posters to share with your community!