Navajo Nation provides for “community immunity”: 120,000 hits given | News on the coronavirus pandemic

The Navajo Nation continues its vaccination campaign with more than 120,000 doses administered Friday, moving closer to becoming the first region in the United States to administer the first vaccine to its entire population.

The Navajo Nation vaccination campaign, which started in december, has set a target of 100,000 initial doses administered by the end of February, which it exceeded on Thursday of this week. Health officials then set a new target of 120,000 doses, which they have exceeded today.

An area of ​​approximately 70,000 km2 (approximately 27,000 square miles) with a population of 170,000, the Navajo Nation is a largely rural region that serves primarily as a reserve for the Navajo, or Dine, people. It was hit hard during the first months of the COVID-19 outbreak, having a higher per capita infection rate than other hot spots like New York.

Authorities must administer just under 50,000 additional doses to achieve a level of protection for all residents. According to Navajo Nation statistics, 39,934 have already received both doses.

Navajo Region Indian Health Services (NAIHS) Chief Medical Officer Dr Loretta Christensen told Al Jazeera at a press conference on Thursday that the NAIHS held a meeting to discuss “getting our people vaccinated. to achieve what we call “community immunity”, and what our next steps would be “.

Christensen said health officials will work with local organizations to “map” the Navajo Nation for vaccines, looking for rural areas or other communities and groups that have limited access to health centers in order to provide doses.

Members of the New Mexico Army National Guard put bags of flour in a truck as they help distribute food throughout the Navajo reservation amid a COVID-19 outbreak in Standing Rock, New Mexico, in May 2020 [Donovan Quintero/Reuters]

A registry has also been created to help those who are not close to a site that administers vaccines find a place to go, explained Christensen.

“We also contacted our Navajo population who do not currently live on the reserve and who go to school or work off reservation. And we strongly encourage them to come back if they need to. “

Wider goals

The Navajo Nation spans three states: New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. It also borders Colorado, where many locals go to buy food and supplies. The tribal area shares its longest borders with New Mexico and Arizona, two states it far exceeds in vaccine distribution.

New Mexico administered 540,184 initial doses to its population of more than two million, according to state statistics.

Arizona, which was named “anti-vaccine hot spotAccording to a university study in 2018, administered at least one dose to 15.8% of its population of over 7.2 million, or 1,603,558 as of Friday morning, the state reported.

When asked if the NAIHS has any plans for the possibility of achieving “community immunity” in front of neighboring states, Christensen said they were looking to the future but could not provide details.

“Our goal is of course to keep everyone safe. And as our Navajo population certainly interacts in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, it is vitally important to us that the populations we work with and live with – that we are all safe. . So that would be our ultimate goal, ”she concluded.

The Navajo Nation is the largest indigenous population center in the United States, but the Indian Health Service (IHS), which oversees the vaccination campaign on tribal lands in the Americas, also sees higher vaccination rates than the most states.

Lt. Sara Mantick, pharmacist, and Lt. Christopher Mendoza-Troung, acting chief pharmacist, begin drawing COVID-19 vaccines at the Zuni Comprehensive Health Center in New Mexico on December 16, 2020 [Courtesy of IHS]

The United States had more five million people who identified as indigenous only or in combination with other ethnic groups in 2010, according to US Census data.

Joshua Barnett, an IHS spokesperson, said the agency had set itself “a target of having 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered … by the end of the month. I can tell you that we achieved this goal on February 18, earlier than expected. “

Barnett credited the “tireless efforts of healthcare workers through” the IHS system.

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