More than one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered by the Indian health system, and additional help to Indian Health Service, tribal and urban Indian health programs is on its way.
The Biden administration announced this month that it was investing more than $4 billion to combat coronavirus in Indian Country as part of the president’s American Rescue Plan. A large chunk of the money will go to support increased vaccinations across the Indian health system.
The Bemidji Area office of Indian Health Service covers three Midwest states including all of Minnesota. Nearly 100,000 vaccine doses have been administered as part of the Bemidji office.
Native people are at higher risk for coronavirus disease and complications.
Native American and Alaska Native people are 3.5 times more likely to get COVID-19, and have the highest hospitalization rate of any racial or ethnic group, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Two days before Biden’s announcement, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing that examined the coronavirus response in Indigenous communities. The bipartisan committee oversees matters related to Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian peoples.
Health officials from Hawaii, Alaska and the Lower 48 testified, including Indian Health Service Chief Medical Officer Michael Toedt.
“Over the past year, the IHS has worked closely with our tribal and urban Indian organization partners, state and local public health officials, and our fellow federal agencies to coordinate a comprehensive public health response to the pandemic. Our number one priority has been the safety of our IHS patients and staff, as well as tribal community members,” said Toedt.
Toedt shared IHS’ coronavirus response and strategy in his roughly five-minute testimony. He said the vaccination effort was possible because of strong partnerships with tribal governments and health facilities.
“As we work towards recovery, we are committed to working closely with our stakeholders and understand the importance of working with partners during this difficult time,” said Toedt.
Toedt only read highlights of his 6-page testimony. To read Toedt’s full testimony and other testimonies, visit Indian.Senate.gov.
In other news.
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has vaccinated nearly 51 percent of tribal citizens in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Doctor Charity Reynolds, medical director at Fond du Lac Human Services, wants to remind citizens to get both shots of the Moderna vaccine being offered by the tribe.
“The overall goal is to get 80 percent so that we can reach that herd immunity within the community. We are asking those between the ages of 18 and 52 to get vaccinated, they have the lowest rate so we really have to work on getting those higher,” said Reynolds
Dalton Walker reporting for Minnesota Native News Health Report