COVID-19 vaccines now available to all Indigenous adults in B.C.

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As of yesterday, B.C. is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations to all Indigenous people ages 18 and up.

The news comes as the province opens up vaccinations to everyone 73 or older.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he was pleased to hear the news. He acknowledged that Indigenous communities have been hit hard by the pandemic.

"It's been severe. We've lost some iconic elders, who are the knowledge keepers and whatnot. So it's definitely left its tragic footprint in First Nations communities."

Phillips says overcrowded housing, the communal nature of Indigenous communities and the "dire" base medical conditions of Indigenous people have made them more vulnerable during the pandemic.

Although some have expressed concerns about vaccine hesitancy in First Nations communities, Phillips -- who's the former chief of the Penticton Indian Band --  says he's seen plenty of interest in the vaccine.

"Here in Penticton, we were running a program out of the hall that just ended last Friday. The whole community took advantage of that. I haven't seen such a response since the H1N1 crisis."

Indigenous people in the North can phone the Northern Health call centre at 1-844-255-7555 to book an appointment.