District of Sparwood logo and flag. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

District of Sparwood logo and flag. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Add Sparwood and Elkford to community-wide vaccination program: Wilks

Sparwood’s mayor said the current vaccination program was too slow for the coal-dependent communities

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks will be making the case for community-wide vaccination to happen in Sparwood and Elkford sooner rather than later, similar to other small communities in B.C.

“I think Sparwood and Elkford certainly would benefit from that, especially with the number of people we have coming in and out of the valley working at the mines,” he said.

Currently, both Sparwood and Elkford – two communities which rely heavily on the coal mining industry with vast swathes of the local workforce employed at Teck’s four operating mines in the region – are home to single vaccination clinics. The Sparwood clinic is open two days a week, while the ELkford clinic is open one day a week.

The vaccination clinic in Sparwood is going to be relocated from the Sparwood Health Centre to the Causeway Bay Hotel – but only for logistics reasons, rather than any increase in capacity.

While all the Elk Valley was included as affected by a COVID-19 ‘cluster’ declared by IHA earlier in 2021, Elkford and Sparwood have seen relatively few cases in the community, but local employer Teck was beset by a small outbreak at its operations late last year. All workers at the work camp in Elkford were offered vaccinations earlier this year.

The clinics in the Elk Valley are all still going by date of birth for eligibility, and are at phase 3 – those aged between 79 and 60, with rolling updates on when people become eligible. If the current program remains, adults in the last bracket aged between 24 and 18 will not be eligible until late June.

“We need to look at something, because otherwise it’s going to take us a long time (to get vaccinated)”

Wilks said he’d be raising the issue with Interior Health as soon as his next meeting with them later this week.

“From what I’ve heard in other communities, it’s gone very well.”

Earlier this week, Revelstoke was one of many smaller communities in B.C. where vaccination bookings were opened up to all residents over 18 – something Wilks said the northern half of the Elk Valley needed.

The situation is different in Fernie, where Interior Health is setting up a mass vaccination clinic at the Fernie Memorial Arena with a capacity for 1,000 vaccination bookings a week. The clinic in Fernie will be operational from April 12, and according to Interior Health will be open three days a week.

READ MORE: All Revelstoke residents can now book a COVID-19 vaccine

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