Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir shared her battle with COVID-19 in a joint council meeting Wednesday

Chief advocates for vaccines

Sharing her personal journey battling COVID-19, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir says she is advocating for all members of the First Nation to be vaccinated.

Casimir talked about her experience in a joint meeting between the Tk’emlups the Secwepemc and City of Kamloops councils last week.

Casimir said she has now been vaccinated for COVID-19, adding she "felt a lot better with it," even though she felt some symptoms after receiving the jab.

The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief had announced in early February she tested positive for the virus.

“My journey with COVID was very long, way longer than I anticipated,” she told members of the two councils.

“I thought because I was in perfect health, and because I was doing all the right things, I was going to be done. It just ended up being longer. I ended up with pneumonia, and I can still feel it in my chest. I went through two rounds of antibiotics.”

Casimir said she is encouraging everyone to get the vaccine to protect themselves, and the whole community.

According to Casimir, approximately 30 per cent of the Tk’emlups membership has been vaccinated.

“We still have a long ways to go,” she said, adding some members have expressed concerns over getting the vaccine, and some simply don’t want to participate.

“It’s about really sharing the importance of what that means, and what it means for our community,” she said.

Casimir said the risks from contracting COVID-19 are high, and the benefits of getting the population to herd immunity is something worth striving towards.

“Everything in our lives has changed…where we come from, our families are large, and our extended families are even larger,” she said, referencing the phrase “all our relations” as an example of how much the community values family.

“Going from that whole aspect to your household has been very difficult on many, we know it has also impacted a lot of areas when it comes to mental health and depression,” Casimir said.

She said she wants the community to get back to the place “we once knew,” where community and families can support each other face to face.

Mayor Ken Christian thanked Casimir for sharing her story.

“I think it’s important, for us as members of the two councils to double down on our efforts to be protected, but also for our constituents, to say, 'Hey, this can happen,'” he said.

Christian said he also appreciated Casimir’s reference to the pandemic’s impact on mental health.

“I think it will have lingering effects for a long time to come,” he said.

“This isolation, I’ve had enough of it, quite frankly.”

Christian also shared an update on vaccinations being doled out in the City of Kamloops.

He said Interior Health had suggested all adults in the city could receive their first doses by June, which would give some degree of “short-term immunity” while second doses are administered.

If they operate at full capacity, the two mass vaccination clinics in Kamloops could administer 1000 immunizations per day, according to Christian.

He said capacity issues at Royal Inland Hospital have been a concern, especially as virus variants are spreading in parts of the province as part of the pandemic's third wave.

“Their surge capacity to accept a number of individuals who would have been exposed to the variants of COVID-19 is really limited, and so this is an important three week period where we have this ‘circuit breaker,’ as they’re calling it,” Christian said.

“The businesses don’t like it, I’ve heard loud and clear from them. In particular, the hospitality and tourism industry is just hurting, but this is what they feel is epidemiologically required for the reset, to get the emerging variants under control over the next three weeks.”

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