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Navajo Nation seeing early vaccine rollout success

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez visits the Chinle Comprehensive Healthcare Facility in Arizona in December to oversee the first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the Navajo Nation. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Navajo Nation has administered about 98% of its available COVID-19 vaccines and more doses are arriving this week from the federal government.

As of Tuesday, the Navajo Nation had administered 77,074 of the 78,520 vaccine doses it had received.

The Navajo Area Indian Health Service, which helps coordinate the reservation’s vaccine distribution, is expecting a shipment of 28,925 doses within days.

Roselyn Tso, area director for the Navajo Area IHS, credited local health care workers for managing the tribe’s vaccine clinics alongside testing programs and regular medical care.

“We are working very hard to make sure all vaccines available to the Navajo Area IHS are put into the arms of the people that we serve,” Tso said during a video update Tuesday.

Drive-through vaccination sites, along with social media posts and flyers informing Navajo residents of vaccine availability at various clinics, have helped boost the number of tribal members that have received COVID-19 vaccines.

These efforts have helped distribute vaccines even in smaller communities, such as Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, and Thoreau, said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

“This virus, this pandemic, has probably touched every single person on the Navajo Nation one way or the other,” Nez said. “A lot of our relatives have lost their lives to COVID-19.”

The tribal government has a goal of administering a total of 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines by the end of February.

Nearly 173,000 people live on the reservation, according to Census Bureau data.

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a Major Disaster Declaration for the Navajo Nation. The move frees up more Federal Emergency Management Agency resources, such as money, staff and supplies, to help the reservation address COVID-19.

Nez said more than 80 federal health care personnel will be coming to the reservation in the coming weeks to assist with vaccinations and clinical care.

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility varies across the vast reservation’s health care facilities.

Many sites have begun vaccinating people older than 18. All sites prioritize older and high-risk residents.

Some vaccination sites focus on administering the second doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The Navajo Nation reported 54 new COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths Tuesday. A total of 28,994 people have tested positive and 1,075 people have died from the disease.

The average case numbers and deaths have held steady for the past two weeks, which health officials call a promising trend.

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