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Monday, January 24, 2022

Here’s Why The Navajo Nation Is Beating Out Every State’s Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout

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The Navajo Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes in the U.S., is vaccinating its population faster than any state, an optimistic sign for the reservation after being badly battered by the coronavirus early on in the pandemic.

Key Facts

According to the Navajo Department of Health, nearly 90% of Navajos have received at least one vaccine dose, while 88,513 people have been fully vaccinated, more than 36% of the 244,209 people who access health care through the Navajo Area Indian Health Service.

The states with the highest vaccination rates, like New Mexico, South Dakota and Alaska, have vaccinated roughly 25% of their total populations.

“Just because of how hard-hit the Navajo Nation was, we’ve seen a big increase in participation in taking the vaccine,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said on Face The Nation Sunday.

Nez said Navajos were encouraged to be vaccinated by watching their leaders take the vaccine on television, as well as with tribe-hosted virtual town hall meetings with health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the country, and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to answer questions about the virus and vaccine.

“This pandemic here has revealed some of the deficiencies in all of our healthcare systems throughout the country, moreso in Native American communities,” Nez said Sunday, though he praised healthcare professional’s “outstanding” work done with limited resources.

The Indian Health Service, which oversees tribes’ healthcare systems, has been underfunded since its inception, Nez said, and according to the National Congress of American Indians, only receives 59% of needed funding.

Key Background

The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the U.S., and is the second-largest in terms of enrolled members with nearly 300,000, though only about 173,000 Navajos live on the reservation according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The reservation was hit hard early in the pandemic, and in May 2020 the Navajo Nation surpassed New York for the country’s highest infection rate. Between 30% and 40% of the Navajo people do not have running water, which exacerbated the high number of coronavirus cases, as many residents could not easily wash their hands and exposed themselves to infection during trips to get water from communal wells or grocery stores. According to the Navajo Times, despite the surge in vaccinations and a decrease in coronavirus fatalities, the reservation is seeing a jump in new cases. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 30,164 Navajos have tested positive for coronavirus and 1,257 have died, slightly lower rates than the U.S. as a whole. 

Further Reading

U.S. Just Vaccinated Over 100 Million Americans (Forbes)

This State Has Already Vaccinated Most Adult Residents. Here’s How.  (Forbes)

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