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Navajo Nation President wants priority for COVID-19 vaccine for his community

Navajo Nation
Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 30, 2020

NAVAJO NATION — The CDC is expected to meet Tuesday to finalize their recommendations of whom should receive the first rounds of a COVID-19 vaccine, and how many vaccines will be shipped where.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who saw his community hit hard by the novel coronavirus and worked to distribute supplies, support, and testing to the farthest edges of the Navajo Nation, wants his community to be among the first to get the vaccine.

"It has taken over 630 of our Navajo people's lives," he said in an interview with ABC15 on Monday.

“We have a larger percentage of people that are diabetic, that have cardiovascular disease, that have cancer," he said, all conditions that put people at a higher risk.

He hopes that Dr. Jill Jim, the director of the Navajo Nation Department of Health and who was recently selected to serve on President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, can help.

“We are saying to the decision-makers up in Washington D.C. that Navajo has gotten hit hard with COVID-19 and we should be a priority to get the first round of vaccines,“ said Nez.

The distribution will be run by eight health units across the Navajo Nation, ach with a certain number of vaccination sites. Nez said they’ll use social media outreach to alert community members on when and where to go to get the vaccine.

"I'm sure it will be most likely drive-thru sites based on we’re still going through a pandemic,” he said. “Of course, that means we have to buy these freezers that are going to have to keep the vaccines very, very cold.”

Because those freezers are expensive and already in high demand, there is some concern about getting enough of them to hold the vaccines and, if not, the potential delay in being able to distribute any vaccines.

Related: How Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could be key for rural Arizona communities
Related: First rounds of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine could make it to frontline workers

Some companies that specialize in dry ice are now being told to be ready to assist.

Airgas, an air-liquid company based in Pennsylvania that has offices in Buckeye, said it is in active communication with federal agencies and is carefully managing its ice supplies in case they're needed to help store those vaccines.

Despite the challenges that lay ahead, President Nez is confident his community will once again rise to the occasion.

“We’re resilient, we overcame and we will overcome this,” he said.