The gritty neighborhood is in one of Canada’s most dreamy and picturesque cities, on about 15 blocks that are among the poorest and the most squalid in the country.
An epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis, the area has become a stark symbol of urban poverty, addiction and social marginalization in one of the world’s wealthiest nations, but also one of resilience, community and progressive social policies.
1,724 deaths in the province from drug overdoses, or an average of about 4.7 deaths a day, according to the British Columbia Coroners Service.
The vaccination program comes as British Columbia’s health care system is under severe strain because of the pandemic with hospitalizations reaching new heights. As of Friday, the province had recorded 123,000 cases of Covid-19, of which 1,550 people have died.
Meanwhile, in the Downtown Eastside, the virus appears to have been largely contained. In mid-February, the neighborhood had about 75 cases of the coronavirus in one week, according to the local health authority. Today, about 7,500 local residents have been vaccinated and cases have trickled down to about five this week.
Alana Paterson, a photographer for The New York Times, set out with her camera to document the vaccination program in action. A Vancouver resident herself, she told me she was heartened by the way dedicated nurses had managed to establish trust in a community with a strong distrust of authority. Some residents had told the nurses they were too afraid to get vaccinated.