Larry LaFond was the first to get his COVID-19 vaccine at the Sicamous community clinic on Wednesday, March 24. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)

Larry LaFond was the first to get his COVID-19 vaccine at the Sicamous community clinic on Wednesday, March 24. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)

Sicamous residents pleased with local clinic offering COVID vaccines

The clinic offers vaccines to residents 60 and older. Some have had difficulty booking.

Sicamous will be ahead most of the province in terms of the proportion of its residents who are vaccinated, thanks to a community clinic that is offering the shot to residents 60 years and older.

Vaccines were available to those 75 and older elsewhere in the province while the first shots were given in Sicamous on March 24 at the Sicamous Seniors Centre hall.

First in line for the vaccine was 61-year old Larry LaFond who said he was excited to receive the first dose. LaFond said he is glad to receive the vaccine in Sicamous rather than travelling to Salmon Arm like he expected.

Carol Henkel, 79, was also waiting in line for her vaccination appointment. Henkel had already booked her appointment for Salmon Arm but said she was eager to get the shot a week earlier and not leave Sicamous.

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Sicamous Councillor Malcom Makayev and Mayor Terry Rysz were waiting in the wings for their own vaccinations later in the morning.

Before the first vaccination was given, there was a welcome ceremony with drumming and songs from Edna and Laureen Felix from Splatsin. Vaccination of the Splatsin community is already well underway and Edna, a Splatsin councillor, took the time to thank the health-care workers bringing the vaccine to Sicamous.

“What you guys are doing is good for the people. It’s good for their health and mental wellness to give them peace and sound of mind. Kucstemc (thank you),” Edna told the gathered nurses.

Rysz also thanked the health-care workers and everyone who worked to bring the vaccine to Sicamous.

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The mayor said he was pleasantly surprised by the news that Sicamous residents would be able to register for early vaccinations. Despite the surprise, he said he sees why Sicamous would be a priority as more than half the district’s population is older than 60 and ensuring everyone had transportation to Vernon or Salmon Arm would prove difficult.

The vaccination clinic at the seniors centre was scheduled to be open from March 24 to 26 and March 29 to 30. Appointments for clinics can be booked through Interior Health at 1-877-740-7747. Those calling to book an appointment to receive a vaccination in Sicamous should be aware that they will encounter a recorded message that states only individuals 75 and older can book a vaccination. The district is advising people to continue through the phone prompts until they can speak with a representative and then ask to book an appointment for the Sicamous Community Clinic.

Even before the first day of vaccinations, Rysz said most of the people he talked to had already registered.

While things will not return to normal in Sicamous until provincial and federal regulations are relaxed, Rysz said it is good to see Sicamous’ senior citizens looked after.

The process of booking an appointment to be vaccinated has not been seamless for everyone. On March 26, Sicamous resident Gord Gannon told the Eagle Valley News he and his wife were unable to secure appointments despite diligent attempts. He said they had been waking up early and calling the number for appointments every two or three hours for four days. While they always got an answer and the staff on the other end of the line were courteous, Gannon said they were told there were no more vaccine doses available each time they called. He said no estimate was provided as to when more doses might be available, causing frustration for him and his wife.

Interior Health’s plans appear to indicate more vaccine is bound for Sicamous and older residents may not be the only ones to get the shot earlier than expected. As of March 26, Interior Health’s list of community specific clinics has an entry for all Sicamous residents 18 and older with dates to be confirmed.

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