On Monday, Quadra Island experienced the greatest community gathering since the pandemic started in March of last year.
Attendants directed cars pouring into the gravel parking lot of the island’s recreation centre as residents turned out in droves to take part in the “whole-community” vaccination program scheduled for the next couple of days.
Quadra Island — with an approximate population of 2,700 people and sandwiched between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland — is only accessible by boat, ferry or plane.
As such, Quadra qualified for Island Health’s clinics that vaccinate all registered adults in communities with fewer than 4,000 residents with no road access, or that are more than a three-hour drive from a hospital.
Masked residents hustled to join a lineup that snaked around the rec centre as folks waited at distanced intervals for their shot.
Islander Kirstie Stewart, who confessed she typically doesn’t like getting needles, said she felt both eager and nervous.
“But I’m overwhelmingly excited to get life back to where it was,” said Stewart. “I’m really missing that easy, unlimited contact with friends and family.”
As well, Stewart said she’s keen to see the return of overseas travel.
“I really feel like we should be celebrating. I’ve never been more happy to have a needle in my arm,” Quadra Island resident Connie Elford said about her #COVID19 shot at @VanIslandHealth's community-wide vaccination clinic on Monday.
“We have family in Australia that we haven’t seen for a very long time,” she said.
Quadra is one of the last 28 isolated, rural or Indigenous communities eligible for community-wide vaccination clinics in the health authority that included most of the smaller Gulf Islands and small Vancouver Island communities such as Sayward, Kyuquot, Port Renfrew, Gold River or Tahsis.
A total of 300,742 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the health authority overall, representing almost 41 per cent of the population, Island Health said Monday.
This is comparable to the provincial vaccination rate of nearly 42 per cent of the total eligible population across B.C., said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix at Monday’s COVID-19 briefing.
The vaccination rates for seniors aged 70 and older exceeds 85 per cent, while 33 per cent of those aged over 60 have been innoculated, Dix said, adding that close to 200,000 people in the province’s 205 First Nations communities have also been vaccinated. As well, all First Nations’ members, regardless of where they live, are eligible immediately for vaccinations and should register as soon as possible, Dix said.
Everyone in B.C. over the age of 18 should also register online or by phone, as May will be a critical month with large vaccination shipments expected in coming weeks, and appointments will need to be scheduled quickly, Dix and Henry stressed.
Though the pace of vaccinations will continue to rise, B.C. is still in the middle of its third wave, said Henry. But numbers are beginning to fall slightly following recent public health orders, she added.
“We’ve been on a very steep upward trajectory in our case curve over the last few weeks, and our hospitalizations remain high, and as we know, there are many people right now in critical care and ICU,” Henry said.
“But there also are some encouraging signs that our efforts are working, that we’re starting to come down on the other side of the curve.”
But 15 more people died from the virus over three days including Friday, and B.C. recorded 2,174 new cases over the weekend, Henry said. That includes 474 people in hospital, 176 of whom are in intensive care.
There were 835 cases Friday to Saturday, 671 cases Saturday to Sunday and 668 cases Sunday to Monday, down from a seven-day moving average of more than 1,000 daily cases in mid-April to a moving average of closer to 800 as of Friday.
But Dix stressed that people who have been vaccinated must still rigorously follow pandemic protocols to continue to keep COVID-19 case trending downward.
“We can't have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake,” Dix said.
Quadra resident Connie Elford also said she wasn’t going to be any less cautious after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday.
“I’m really mindful and don’t have a sense of false security,” Elford said. “I’m still keeping my distance and being respectful of other people.”
The whole-community approach was a great measure to protect island residents, she added.
“It’s really the safest thing to do,” Elford said.
“If everybody had to head off on the ferry to Campbell River, it really defeats the entire purpose of the work the community has been doing (to follow protocols).”
However, being cautious didn’t mean she didn’t want to do a dance in the street without her mask, she said.
“I really feel like we should be celebrating. I’ve never been more happy to have a needle in my arm.”
Rochelle Baker/Local Journalism Initiative/Canada's National Observer