The Agassiz Public Health Unit on Pioneer Avenue. (Google Maps)

The Agassiz Public Health Unit on Pioneer Avenue. (Google Maps)

Kent mayor advising residents to wait if they want their COVID-19 vaccine in Agassiz

Agassiz clinic accepting Indigenous people only, in what the mayor calls a ‘communications difficulty’

UPDATE:

Mayor Sylvia Pranger says that the error has been fixed, and non-Indigenous local residents can call to book an appointment in the Agassiz immunization clinic. The Fraser Health booking website has also been updated, and non-Indigenous people can book appointments for Agassiz online as well.

So far, those appointments will only be available on March 17 and 19, she said. Pranger is hoping to work with Fraser Health to bring a more comprehensive vaccination clinic to the community for all ages.

The Agassiz Harrison Observer had reached out to Fraser Health for more clarification on the Agassiz vaccine clinic. They said the public health unit is open to everyone in the Fraser Health region who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine. The clinic will have cultural supports for Indigenous people, including support from First Nations Health Authority staff, referrals to support services if needed.

“We will continue to monitor volumes closely at the Agassiz clinic and nearby clinics and can add additional hours or sites if needed,” Fraser Health’s spokespeople said. “Our current capacity and need indicates we are able to serve all local residents in a timely manner using the Agassiz site and nearby clinics.

“Planning is underway for Phase 3 of the provincial COVID-19 Immunization Plan and we will make any adjustments needed to meet the immunization roll-out schedule.”


Kent Mayor Sylvia Pranger is advising residents wanting to get their COVID-19 vaccine in Agassiz to wait until tomorrow to book, as non-Indigenous people haven’t been able to get a local appointment since bookings began.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being administered in Agassiz through the public health unit at 7243 Pioneer Avenue, and people will be able to get an appointment when it opens for their age group. Currently, Fraser Health is booking appointments for people aged 90 and older, and Indigenous people who are 65 and older.

However, there had been a “communications difficulty” in the booking process, Pranger said, which meant that only people who were Indigenous were able to book their vaccinations at the Agassiz clinic.

RELATED: About 15,000 COVID-19 shots booked on Day 1 in B.C., more than half in Fraser Health

On Monday, March 8, Agassiz resident Terrill Scott had tried to book an appointment in the local clinic for her 94-year-old mother-in-law through Fraser Health’s online system. But when she went online to book, there was no Agassiz clinic available.

“That’s when I got a little bit confused and wondering,” Scott said. “After reading it about 10 times to make sure I understood it … I just did the phone thing.”

Despite the high volume of calls, Scott was able to connect to the booking phone line at 6:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the call centre closed. When she asked about whether she could book an appointment in Agassiz, the person on the other line asked her to hold.

“I got put on hold, and then at 7 o’clock that was it,” she said. “They dropped my call and we all went to bed.”

Scott called again today (Tuesday, March 9) and managed to connect to an operator in the afternoon. That time, the operator explained that the Agassiz clinic was for Indigenous people only and Scott would only be able to book in Chilliwack or Abbotsford.

“I ended up making it in Chilliwack, because I wanted her to get the vaccine,” Scott said. “At 94, I just want to get it done. I would like to have waited, but I thought I’m not sure what’s happening with the Agassiz clinic.”

Pranger said that the clinic being designated for Indigenous people only is a mistake, and the clinic will be open to everyone. But residents should wait until Wednesday, March 10 to book online or over the phone, so the “communications difficulty” that Pranger said caused the mistake can be cleared up.

RELATED: 22 COVID vaccine clinics to be opened for seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ in Fraser Health

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Fraser Health booking site lists the Agassiz clinic as a dedicated Indigenous clinic.

The Agassiz Harrison Observer has reached out to Fraser Health for more clarification on the Agassiz vaccine clinic, including who can be booked in for appointments. The Fraser Health website says that the clinic will have dedicated Indigenous cultural supports, but does not indicate if it is for Indigenous people only.

People who are eligible to book their vaccine can still get appointments in other clinics such as Chilliwack and Abbotsford, even if the Agassiz clinic is not accepting bookings from non-Indigenous residents.

Residents 90 and older, or Indigenous people 65 and older have been able to book since Monday, March 8. People who are 85 and older will be able to start booking their appointments on Monday, March 15, and those who are 80 and older will be able to book starting March 22.

RELATED: COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Pranger said she is hopeful that Agassiz will be able to have an immunization clinic in the community once the general public is able to get their vaccines, but “we aren’t at that point yet.”

“It’s just right to have it close to home, so people don’t have to travel and make things more difficult,” Pranger said. “I think the Agassiz, Harrison population is strong enough and big enough that we should have a clinic.”



news@ahobserver.com

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