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Relief, happiness after COVID-19 vaccine rolls out in Anahim Lake, Ulkatcho First Nation

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Ulkatcho First Nation elder Mary William broke into a grin after being the first person in the isolated community west of Williams Lake to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last week.

“I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” William said Dec. 30 before receiving the shot, saying she was getting immunized to protect her husband, children and grandchildren.

“Every day when I go out, I’m wondering am I bringing the virus home to my family, and now I know it’s not going to happen, so thank God,” she said.

Sitting next to William with her sleeve rolled up was her sister Yvonne Lowen.

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“My husband has been very sick, and you just dread going home,” Lowen said of her fear of bringing COVID-19 to her home.

“I sanitize a lot just to make sure everything is safe, and I’m always so scared when visitors come over, but now I”m very happy.”

Anahim Lake is one of 10 rural and remote Indigenous communities across B.C. the Moderna vaccine had rolled out the week of Dec. 28.

The vaccine provided by First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) landed at Anahim Lake Airport at around 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 29. It was distributed to Ulkatcho members and non-members 18 years and older of the Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake area at Ukatcho First Nation Community Hall Dec. 30 and Dec. 31.

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Band manager Brian Johnson, who also got immunized, said it was the nation that asked FNHA to make the vaccine available to everyone.

“We’re one community,” Johnson said, adding it was up to individuals to decide if they wanted to be immunized or not.

“Everybody out here, we’re working with each other, our children go to the same school, so it just made sense to do that to support everybody … and we have more than enough doses to handle the whole community.”

While Johnson could not disclose how many people agreed to receive the vaccine, he said between 30 to 35 people were in line waiting for the doors to open the first day, in which a steady flow continued throughout both days.

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Individuals were required to wait at least 15 minutes at the hall after receiving the vaccine to confirm they did not experience any adverse reactions, which Johnson said to his knowledge there were none.

A second dose is required in approximately 28 days.

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