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Healthcare workers in Native American communities among first to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Native American healthcare workers get vaccine
Posted at 6:49 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 21:17:25-05

PHOENIX  — Among the first in Arizona to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are frontline healthcare workers who are working in areas with one of our most vulnerable populations, that is our Native American neighbors in areas hit especially hard by the coronavirus.

ABC15 had a front row seat at the Phoenix Indian Medical center Wednesday to a dress-rehearsal of sorts, as the community prepares for a large number of vaccinations that are scheduled to take place Thursday.

A small number of employees received the vaccinations during this event. With their colleagues erupting in cheers and shouts of congratulations, a select group of frontline workers rolled up their sleeves to get the shot this afternoon.

Commander Holly Van Lew, a vaccine specialist with the U.S. Public Health Service and member of the Operation Warp Speed task force said she traveled the country with a colleague, and realized Native American communities needed to get their share of the overall vaccination shipment.

"We were allocated 22,425 doses for the Indian Health Services, for the Pfizer vaccines and delivery," said Van Lew.

For Pharmacy Supervisor Kristi Johnson and Pharmacy Tech Vanessa Leyvas who are both members of the Navajo tribe, getting to this day has been long and painful as they have witnessed so much suffering in their communities. She is hoping members of the community are able to have access to these vaccines soon.

"I feel honored to get it, but I also feel bad, in a way, because they can't get it yet, and I want them all to get it. I want them to be protected as well," said Johnson.

Staff say while we are not at the finish line of this global pandemic yet, that finish line is now finally within sight.

The extra layer of protection would allow people to have protection as they resumed day to day life.