He hasn’t been inside a classroom since March 2020, but that is about to change since eight-year-old Cole Gonzales received his COVID-19 vaccination on Nov. 8, making him the first child under 12 in Neah Bay to receive the shot.
Ellen Gonzales, Cole’s mother, comes from the Robinson family of Uchucklesaht and has another home in Kildonan. But she hasn’t been to her Canadian home in more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Ellen and her husband Bruce Gonzales have made their home in Neah Bay, Washington, where Bruce is a Makah tribal member. The couple has two sons – Cole and Ethan, age 14.
The couple has taken extra precautions for their younger son, Cole, who has asthma, fearing what the COVID-19 virus could do to him. They have kept him out of school even though the other children in Neah Bay returned to classes in May 2021, according to the Gonzales’.
The couple’s older son Ethan was vaccinated but they kept him home from school to avoid having him bring the virus to his unprotected little brother.
“People stop sanitizing and visitors come in from other towns where rules are different – they may not have to wear masks where they came from,” said Bruce Gonzales.
He said there have been several outbreaks of COVID in the community since the pandemic began.
The couple say they will leave the community to do their shopping but abide by strict rules.
“We go to the stores and when we come home, we wash our hands, shower, wash our clothes then sanitize the car,” said Bruce.
Bruce believes that some people have become complacent about masks and sanitizing since a majority of the adult population has been vaccinated.
“You can still be a carrier of the virus if you’re vaccinated and you can bring that home to others,” he added. “People think it (COVID-19) will just disappear but it’s not going to stop until we make it stop.”
The Gonzales’ say that there are COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Neah Bay every Monday morning. The Makah Tribal Government announced that they will continue to protect their people by maintaining the closure of the Makah reservation to non-residents. The closure has been in place since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. They will re-evaluate the closure in January 2022.
The State of Washington is providing incentives to get people vaccinated against COVID-19 in an effort to increase rates in the state. The Shot of a Lifetime lottery awarded vaccinated Washington residents four chances to win $250,000 in the month of June along with a $1,000,000 prize in July. In addition, there are 30 prizes of one year’s tuition to state public colleges for those vaccinated in the 12–17-year-old age groups.
The Gonzales said that Neah Bay residents receive $1,000 after they’ve been vaccinated.
According to the State of Washington website, 64 per cent of the adult population have been fully vaccinated as of Nov. 9, with 70 per cent having received at least one dose.
In the province of British Columbia, 91 per cent of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine while 87 per cent are fully vaccinated. The provincial government is now administering booster shots to the most vulnerable British Columbians and is planning to begin offering a third shot to people ages 12 to 17 starting January 2022.
According to the Ministry of Health, Indigenous peoples over the age of 12 will be invited to book their booster.
“Our vaccines are highly effective. However, we are starting to see a gradual decline in protection over time. As a result, we are taking the proactive step of expanding boosters to everyone in our province,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.
While Health Canada has yet to approve vaccine for children ages five to 11, the province is inviting parents to register their children online or by phone on the Get Vaccinated system. The B.C. Ministry of Health says the vaccines for younger children will draw on a separate supply designed for youngsters, which is expected to be available very soon.
To register your child for vaccination visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/register#youth
Cole was the first Makah elementary school boy vaccinated in the village on Nov. 8.
“History in the making,” said Ellen Gonzales, who has now given her young son the green light to go back to school.
Cole has been doing remote learning since the start of the pandemic.
“He’s excited about going back to school,” said Ellen, saying it’s better than being stuck at home.
Now that the entire Gonzales family has been vaccinated, they plan to come to Port Alberni during the holiday season to spend some time with family.