Standing outside the Lu'ma Medical Centre in the cold brisk morning, the smell of burning sweet grass, sage and tobacco filled the air as this special day started with a ceremony and blessing of the COVID-19 vaccine for this Indigenous-specific clinic. Elder Seis'lom, Elder in Residence at Lu'ma, led the blessing,
“There has been a lot of loss over the past year for our people. But this is a good day that will help us to get back to some of our normal activities, getting back to culture, back to potlatches, back to pow wows that we've so missed over the past year."
There was a lineup of Elders and seniors waiting for their appointment, but first up was Marge White, who has been on the board of directors for Lu'ma housing for the past 30 years. She was brought into the clinic with a traditional song and drumming. It was also her 85th birthday on Monday so this was a delightful present.
“I didn't even feel it," she announced proudly after it was all over. “I'm looking forward to hugging my four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren that I haven't been able to see all year."
Asked what she would say to other First Nation people who may be concerned about the vaccine, “I firmly believe in my health and in the safety of the shot. I would tell everyone to get it."
As an Emergency Department physician, Dr. Matthew Kwok has seen first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on the Richmond community over the past year. The experience is part of the reason he wanted to now be part of the solution—providing immunizations to members of his community at the new vaccine clinic at the River Rock Casino Show Theatre.
“I believe in the vaccine and it being part of the solution to move us forward," he says, adding that he was thrilled when he got a shift on opening day. But what made the experience exceptionally memorable was being able to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to his mother, Olive Kwok.
While Olive originally had a few concerns about the vaccine, she knew that if it was something her son — an experienced physician supported — that it was safe for her. Olive also says she found the process of attending the clinic and booking an appointment to be very smooth.
For Dr. Kwok, seeing his mom being vaccinated brings a sigh of relief. They're both looking forward slowly incorporating some of the things they've been missing this past year.
“My mom is excited about being able to go back to church and to get out in the community again," he says. “We're also excited to be able to have family dinners and spend more time together as a family as more of us receive the vaccine and public health orders loosen."
River Rock Show Theatre staff updated their sign to welcome seniors arriving for their vaccinations.
A Indigeneous welcoming ceremony took place before the Richmond clinic opened.
Shelagh Derbyshire got a bit of a surprise when she arrived to get her COVID-19 vaccine at the West Vancouver Community Centre Tuesday morning.
The 90-year-old West Van resident was getting her shot from her daughter Karen Dunn, a public health nurse in the community.
“I didn't even feel it," she said, joking that receiving the shot from her daughter was the closest contact they've had all year. “She's very good at giving shots."
The nonagenarian said she's handled the pandemic fairly well, but is looking forward to getting back to doing some of the simple things, like going to church and doing her own shopping.
“I miss going and choosing things for myself," Shelagh said.
While mom was happy to get the vaccine, daughter Karen was just as pleased to provide it.
“It felt really good," she said, adding that her mother is very social and she's been worried about her the last year. “She's been so patient in getting the vaccine. I was delighted."
Karen said her mother didn't have any hesitation in getting vaccine, with Shelagh booking the appointment herself. “She was really ready for this vaccine," she said.
Following her first dose, Shelagh urged everyone to do the same when it's their turn.
“I would say trust the medical people, they're not trying to harm you," she said.
THANK YOU to all the staff, medical staff and volunteers who have supported the opening of the COVID-19 vaccination clinics across VCH and for helping to keep our communities healthy and safe.