Navajo Nation begins administering Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on reservation
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — On Dec. 14, the Navajo Nation received 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 and started vaccinations immediately.
At Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Center, Roland Begay, a Native healer, was the first to get the vaccine and said it was a great opportunity since the vaccine has been talked about globally.
“People should ask themselves what their priorities are,” Begay said. “The choice is yours. It’s in everybody’s hands.”
Dr. Jill Moses, from the Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Center, said she was grateful the Nation had received the vaccine and that health care providers had been prioritized to receive the vaccine.
“Health care providers who are on the front lines with patients first, including (the) Native healers we have on staff,” Moses said.
She also said nursing home residents and staff will be vaccinated during an event Dec. 18.
The vaccine arrived as the Navajo Nation announced 158 more positive cases Dec. 14 and two more deaths.
On Dec. 14, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer visited the Gallup Indian Medical Center as the Navajo Area IHS received the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for COVID-19.
The process of distributing the vaccine to other health care facilities on the Navajo Nation, including health care clinics, began Monday, as well.
More vaccines were expected to be delivered Dec. 15. The vaccine will be administered based on the Centers for Disease Control’s phased distribution plan that calls for health care workers and those living in long-term assisted living facilities to receive the vaccine first, on a volunteer basis.
The Navajo Nation opted to have the Navajo Area IHS oversee the distribution of the vaccine, with the exception of the Utah Navajo Health System, which opted to work with the state of Utah for distribution. The Utah Navajo Health System reported that the vaccines will be delivered later this month, in accordance with its agreement with the state.
“Today is a historic day in this fight against COVID-19,” Nez said. “With the vaccine in hand for our health care workers and those living in nursing homes, it provides more hope and optimism for our health care workers who have worked non-stop and for all of our Navajo people.”
Nez said it was important to remain mindful in what will be a long process, and that the Navajo people cannot let down their guard.
“We have to keep fighting COVID-19 together by staying home as much as possible, wear a mask, avoid crowds and gatherings, practice social distancing, and wash your hands often,” he said. “The fight is not over, but the Pfizer vaccine provides us with another tool to help overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On Dec. 14, the state of Arizona reported 11,795 new cases, Utah reported 1,968, and New Mexico reported 1,507 new cases.
“The fight is far from over, but we now have a new weapon to use against COVID-19,” Lizer said. “Let’s continue to be strong and continue to focus on keeping ourselves and others safe during this pandemic. There is finally some relief for our health care workers who are receiving the vaccine, but we have to continue fighting for them as well by staying home as much as possible. Continue to pray and to stay strong.”