Wet'suwet'en First Nation calls for COVID-19 booster shots for all of Northern Health
Wet'suwet'en First Nation Chief Maureen Luggi in a Zoom interview with CFTK-TV.
PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. -- On October 22nd, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation near Burns Lake put out a news release calling for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to be provided to its community members immediately.
It said the nation had two COVID-19 deaths in less than two weeks, and four matriarchs had tested positive.
Chief Maureen Luggi says that of the two people who passed away, one was her 85-year-old mother.
“We cannot endure any more grief and loss in this community,” she said in an interview with CFTK-TV.
“We're witnessing other neighboring communities that are also experiencing a very high number of COVID-19 cases and people are dying in their communities as well.”
Now, Luggi says the nation’s band council is planning to send a letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix today calling for booster shots for all of Northern B.C.
“[There are] different circumstances for us living in the north, rather than in the south. We have smaller communities, smaller centers [and] smaller healthcare systems.”
Currently, booster shots are only available to immunocompromised people and those in long term care homes. Dr. Henry said in a press conference earlier that the province was considering booster shots for the north due to the regions high case rates, but nothing is planned yet.
Luggi says her community was told it wouldn’t be able to get booster shots until January.
“Our concern is that we need it right now,” she said.
“They're pretty much asking us to wait, and the potential is for more numbers in our communities. We're already burdened right now with a lot of grief and loss, and I don't know how much more our communities can take right now.”
The Wet’suwet’en First Nation is located in the Burns Lake Local Health Area. According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, the area currently has the third-highest per-capita rate of COVID-19 cases in all of B.C., behind Nisga’a and Nechako.
Luggi warns that as the virus spreads, the nation’s older generation is at risk.
“We're losing our language speakers, our fluent speakers, our knowledge keepers and those who are teaching the Wet’suwet’en way of life. So this is urgent for us to go through these experiences and to communicate to government that we can't go through any more loss of life, especially those who are keeping our Wet’suwet’en way of life alive in our communities.”
In a written statement, the Ministry of Health says it continues to prioritize vulnerable and at-risk populations in its response to COVID-19 and has also taken a “whole community” approach to prioritized vaccination when required in the past.
The ministry adds it will have more to say on third doses during tomorrow’s media briefing.
Dix and Henry are expected to provide an update on COVID-19 at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team, will also be joining them.