– Story by Catherine Garrett, Vista Radio

Despite vaccine shortages, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) expects to have vaccinated all First Nations communities in the province by the end of March.

90 out of 203 First Nations communities in B.C. have received the vaccine so far, according to the latest update from the FNHA today (Tuesday).

Acting Medical Health Officer Shannon Macdonald says the vaccine is en route to another dozen communities.

“Our biggest challenge has been the amount of the vaccine,” said Macdonald.

“It is our intention in working with our provincial partners to have all of the First Nations communities to receive vaccine if they choose to, by the end of March.”

She says the urban population will take longer, depending on accessibility.

Due to the vaccine shortage, Macdonald says the FNHA has not been able to meet its original goals, however, every dose they have obtained has been used.

About 19,000 Indigenous people have received the vaccine, she estimates, 16,000 been through FNHA delivery and 3,000 through urban clinics.

Meanwhile, the FNHA says it continues to see a steady increase of COVID-19 infections in Indigenous communities in B.C.

As of Friday, there are 426 active cases in First Nations communities, 185 of those cases are on reserve.

“We have seen the numbers steadily climbing,” said Macdonald.

“We have seen many communities expressing real concern of the variants that have shown up in Manitoba and other places. So far, we have not seen that among the cases in our communities or our urban populations,” she added.

She noted many First Nation communities have still reported significant case clusters.

The Mcleod Lake Indian Band issued a shutdown after four cases and one death occurred earlier this month.

The community has since reopened.

“Many of them are resolving, but it takes time,” said Macdonald.

“We have been busily working with our communities to follow public health recommendations in the best way they possibly can. We saw the result of the gatherings that occurred over the holiday season, with that big spike but that has certainly come down significantly.”