By: Turning Points Magazine
Despite Indian Country being disproportionately hit by the pandemic in 2020, 2021 has provided glimmers of hope and a sense of normalcy to many. Families are reuniting after months of isolation and separation. Urban Natives are able to travel to their homelands. In-person celebrations are slowly and carefully resuming. All of this has been made possible through the protections of the COVID-19 vaccinations.
Since the vaccines first became available to the public nationwide in early January, tribal communities are racing ahead of the vaccination curve. As of May 3, 2021, the federal Indian Health Service has administered 1,809,309 doses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When the pandemic first hit tribal communities, a glaring light was shone on the inequities of healthcare, housing and basic needs such as food, cleaning products and personal protective equipment. Lack of broadband impacted the academics of Native scholars. Although many were unprepared for the disastrous tidal wave of the virus, the deep-rooted sense of Indigenous community care prompted quick responses.
Indian Country’s successful vaccine rollout is credited to tribal sovereignty in action and the efforts of Native health providers who first prioritized vaccine distribution to elders, essential workers and high-risk individuals first, with the general public following. The Blackfeet Nation in Montana is one example of many tribal nations who have offered their surplus vaccines to non-Natives who were struggling to access the vaccine in their area otherwise. As more nations reach herd immunity, Indigenous community care is extending globally with the Navajo Nation providing aid to India as it battles its second wave this spring.
According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and reduce the risk of severe illness from the virus that has plagued our communities over the past year. Our fight isn’t over yet as there is still more work to be done. With the availability of the Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca vaccines today, we can collectively continue to do our part in the global battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Mask up, stay safe and skoVAXden!
I got vaccinated for…
Native Sun Devils share about the COVID-19 vaccine
“I received my two doses of the COVID vaccine to protect my family and myself. I had a hard time seeing family before and being OK with that feeling. I am grateful for the opportunity to get my vaccine by volunteering with Dignity Health at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and helping with the pandemic. I wanted to be part of something that benefits the community as a whole. I wanted to be part of the solution, not the problem.” — Shawna Peshlakai (Diné), BS Planning
“Getting the vaccine was the best way of protecting my youth clients and their families during an unprecedented time. Everyone (should) take a responsible approach about individual, family and community health. As a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, I am currently missing my second season of ceremony for the Lent and Easter season. I feel empty without my culture to ground me. My hope is that people take initiative towards an educated approach to the vaccine so that we can reunite with family and engage in the social engagements we once did.” — Angela Burks (Pascua Yaqui), Master of Social Work
“I received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. I was blessed that I didn’t have any side effects other than being exhausted the day after. I believe that we should all be willing to do everything and anything to get back to a ‘normal’ life. I hope everyone is safe, healthy and blessed during these hard times.” — Arthur Spencer
“I live in Oklahoma and I already received both dosages of the vaccine. I am a participant in the Moderna clinical trial and I’ve been a participant since August but I received the placebo. So when Moderna got the vaccine, I was given it. I had no side effects for either shot.” — MiKayla Wolf
For a list of Native health providers in Phoenix providing COVID-19 vaccines, visit: www.instagram.com/p/CNp9pTLLS2Q/
Have questions about the vaccine? Visit ASU’s COVID-19 vaccine FAQ.