Health officials in British Columbia say they’re working to make the COVID-19 vaccine rollout a “culturally safe experience” for Indigenous people in a health system that has been criticized for its systemic racism.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told the annual general meeting of Métis Nation British Columbia Saturday that officials want all the pieces in place before announcing the locations of and access plans for 172 vaccination clinics.
“There will be some chaos at the beginning, I know that. So, please be patient,” she said.
Henry told the virtual meeting they expect clinics to open in the middle of March, with higher-risk populations getting their shot before that.
Métis and other Indigenous people are eligible to get their shots 15 years younger than the rest of the population, meaning they can get their shot at 65 when 80-year-old residents are being called.
Dr. Daniele Behn Smith, the deputy provincial health officer for Indigenous Health, said they’ve been working hard to make Métis people “feel seen” during the vaccination process.
“We know that there are going to be hiccups, we know that there are going to be bumps along this road. It would be inconceivable that we wouldn’t,” she said. “Recognizing what just came out in the In Plain Sight report, we have a lot of work to do to create cultural safety throughout systems.”