The Bemidji Area Indian Health Service plans to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine to 150-thousand people across Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But vaccine supply will need to pick up dramatically to make that happen by the end of 2021.
The Bemidji office of the IHS is actually the regional headquarters and serves tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. This fall tribes were asked to count the number people they need to vaccinate.
“We are roughly at about 150-thousand in the three states who will need the vaccine,” said Frye.
Daniel Frye, IHS Director for the Bemidji area says that includes elders, adults, children – tribal members and those who work in tribal agencies and enterprises. IHS began weekly vaccine deliveries to clinics on December 14th. But they are not able to get vaccine to every IHS clinic every week.
“At this point in the vaccine distribution stage, we don’t make any requests. Basically the way that it’s working is that we get a weekly allotment. We have on average 2000 doses that come in weekly and with that, we break it up in increments in 100 and cover as many sites as we possibly can,” said Frye.
Frye is hopeful that vaccine production will increase. At a minimum, he’d like to see every tribe receive vaccine every week to keep their vaccination operation going. And ideally, he’d like to supply enough vaccine for tribes to roll out their mass vaccination plans.
“The tribal sites and our federal sites have done a phenomenal job of putting together these plans to roll out mass vaccination clinics where they can run through 400-500 peel in one day. And that’s what we are looking to dots have that larger impact,” said Frye.
So far most tribes in the Bemidji area have been able to vaccinate all their essential workers. Now they are working to vaccinate elders 65 and older. And Frye says it will take a while to vaccinate this entire population.
“And that’s probably where we’ll be for a bit with the current cadence of vaccine.,” said Frye
Frye says, each clinic has a different protocol for vaccine appointments. So if you are looking to get vaccinated – reach out to your tribal clinic to find out how to do that.
In other Covid-19 related news, the number of positive cases tested in IHS-tribal clinics has decreased over the past month. The spike in positive cases after Thanksgiving has fallen over December and January. IHS Bemidji Area director Daniel Frye says that’s at least partially due to closings ordered by the Walz administration.
“I have to imagine some of the governors orders throughout the holidays had an affect on that with the closing of businesses with the restaurants. We’re just not seeing that community spread,” said Frye
In the past week, roughly 6% of COVID tests are positive at IHS-tribal clinics.
Melissa Townsend talked with IHS Bemidji Area Director Daniel Frye for this report.