Suquamish Tribe to Vaccinate North Kitsap School District Staff and Teachers

 

SUQUAMISH, WA — The Suquamish Tribe will soon begin vaccinating essential staff and teachers at North Kitsap public schools under an agreement announced today.

Teachers and other staff will begin receiving the vaccinations on March 10th at the drive-thru clinic the Tribe set up in early January to vaccinate Tribal Elders and families, and the staff of the Tribal government and the Tribe’s business enterprises. The Tribe will vaccinate an estimated 600 of the School District’s 950 staff, including all who opt-in for the two-shot series. Vaccinating the teachers and other staff of the North Kitsap School District is the most ambitious expansion of the Suquamish Tribe’s vaccination program to date.

“Suquamish has a tradition of hospitality, and that extends to our commitment to the health of all that live around us,” said Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman. “Having vaccinated the majority of our Tribal citizens and their families, and government and enterprise employees, we expanded to offer shots to essential Kitsap 9-1-1 dispatch staff and to other American Indians living in Kitsap County who are not Suquamish Tribal members.”

“And today, we’re announcing a joint project with the North Kitsap School District to vaccinate teachers and staff, assuring that our community’s schools can reopen safely.”

When the North Kitsap School District staff learned of the news during a Zoom call this morning “the response was overwhelming,” according to Jenn Markaryan, North Kitsap School District Communications Coordinator. “Hands raised up in gratitude, and a system-wide sense of relief to have a definitive pathway to vaccination.”

“The Governor’s announcement yesterday was met with excitement, but left folks nervous because appointment availability is scarce,” she added. “It is truly a great day.”

Dr. Laurynn Evans, superintendent of the North Kitsap School District, said: “I want to express my deepest thanks to the Suquamish Tribe. I am grateful to the Tribe for providing this opportunity for NKSD employees, and I appreciate their ongoing partnership with NKSD to support our students, our staff, and our greater school community.”

Further extending its commitment to the community, the Tribe also plans to vaccinate residents of the Cedar Glen Mobile Home Park located on Highway 305, on the Port Madison Indian Reservation.  Most of the residents are elderly and many have mobility issues that prevent them from accessing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Northwest Tribes have a long and devastating experience with pandemics. According to historian Robert Boyd, an estimated 30 percent of the Northwest Coast native population died from smallpox in the 1770s at a time when the Tribes were first in contact with European explorers. By the time settlers arrived in the 1850s, waves of measles, influenza, and additional outbreaks of smallpox had devastated tribal communities, reducing populations to an estimated quarter of their previous size.

Today’s COVID-19 pandemic has also been devastating to Tribal communities, with a mortality rate nationwide among Native Americans and Alaska Natives that is nearly twice the rate of non-Hispanic White people, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Suquamish Tribe took precautions early on, activating its Emergency Operations Center in March 2020. Tribal government offices were closed to the public, and staff worked from home or went on furloughs. These early actions helped the Tribal community and its employees to escape some of the worst of the pandemic impacts.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tribal community health nurses have offered COVID-19 testing to the Tribal community and its employees on-demand and conducted contact tracing when a positive test has been received. The Tribe’s nurses also offer drive-thru flu vaccinations to avert the possibility of multiple illnesses spreading through the community.

The Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort was completely closed for nine weeks, until high-tech screening and COVID safety protocols could be put in place. The Casino Resort has since reopened with limited capacity, shorter hours, and thorough screening and safety protocols.

Beginning in early January 2021 — led by emergency managers, drawing on the expertise of Tribal police and with the help of staff from Tribal government and enterprises — the Tribe turned a floor of the Clearwater Casino parking garage into a drive-thru clinic, and mass vaccination began as soon as supplies of the Moderna vaccines became available.

First to be vaccinated were Tribal Elders, health care staff, and a handful of essential government workers. Tribal members and their families followed quickly, along with the staffs of the Tribal government and the Tribe’s business enterprises.

As of March 2, 2021, Suquamish Tribe Health nurses have administered 1,976 first doses, 1,247 second doses; for a combined total of 3,174 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses. In addition to the doses administered to Suquamish Tribal households, this number includes:

  • 288 of the Tribal government’s 385 employees, for a total of 75 percent of employees.
  • 75 non-Suquamish Native American household members living within Kitsap County.
  • 29 Kitsap 911 dispatchers and essential support staff.

As of the end of February, 73 percent of the Port Madison Enterprise’s 737 employees had been fully vaccinated; 82 percent have had one of the two-shot series.

In spite of the large numbers who have been vaccinated, Tribal government and business enterprise staff continue to wear masks and practice COVID safety protocols, while COVID-19 testing continues. The Emergency Management Office staff and Tribal leaders continue to monitor the situation as new developments arise with time.

All of these precautions have been costly to normal operation of businesses and government, and enormously time-consuming, and the precautions have forced the cancellation of cultural practices that are foundational to the Tribe’s way of life.

Nevertheless, taking aggressive, science-based action has helped keep the Tribal community, and those in surrounding the community, safer. Vaccinating the teachers and staff at North Kitsap Schools is a major additional step towards safeguarding the health of all residents of the larger community.

“Vaccinating the teachers and staff at the North Kitsap School District brings the area closer to the day when schools can fully reopen, which is an important first step in recovery for the whole community,” Forsman noted.

 

Suquamish Tribe Vaccine Distribution Approach

The following vaccine distribution approach was approved by Tribal Council in November.

The first delivery of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived on Dec. 28. The next day, the Tribe received our medical standing orders allowing us to begin dispensing the vaccine. Our medical and support staff were then vaccinated so mass vaccinations could begin for our wider community.

 

The Emergency Operations Staff thank you for your patience and understanding as we move through this difficult time.

If you have any questions regarding this vaccine distribution approach, please contact us at covid_questions@suquamish.nsn.us

Suquamish Tribe Prepares to Vaccinate General Membership

COVID-19 Vaccinations continue for Tribal Elders

The Suquamish Tribe Government was notified its second 600-dose shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is on the way and should arrive next week.

That shipment will come just as the Tribe is wrapping up distribution of the first 600-dose lot of vaccines that it began administering to Tribal Elders on Jan. 4. A small group of medical and support staff needed to distribute the vaccine began getting their vaccines on Dec. 30.

The new shipment sets the stage to begin vaccinating the Tribe’s general membership next week. “We should be able to begin vaccinating general Tribal membership households starting on Jan. 14” May said. “That timeline hinges on our next round of doses arriving as we’ve been promised,” she added.

Meanwhile, most Elders – all Tribal members 55 years old and above, as well as their spouses/partners – who want the vaccine are expected to be vaccinated by the end of this week. Additional front-line Tribal staff and first responders are also receiving the vaccine.

“Our next focus will be on vaccinating the Tribal staff needed to provide essential services and support to our Tribal people,” said May.

That will include members of the Tribe’s Human Services Department, which is responsible for Elder care, veterans services, assistance programs, and health benefits, among others. Staff at the Marion Forsman-Boushie Early Learning Center and Chief Kitsap Academy will also be among the next round of vaccinations, as well as Suquamish Seafoods operations.

“We’ve got to get the teachers and childcare providers inoculated so that our people with kids can work,” said May. “The immediate priority now, over the next few days, is on getting vaccinations to those who provide essential services to Tribal members and keep the government running.”

After Tribal households are vaccinated, remaining government staff will receive their shots.

Suquamish Tribe interim Co-executive Director Scott Crowell noted the Tribe has been able to get vaccinations moving to its members with record speed, with more doses now being ordered weekly.

Indeed, for the rest of Washington State, the vast majority of vaccination efforts are still focused on getting health care providers inoculated while health districts grapple with the logistics and training needed for rolling mass vaccinations.

“We were able to get our first 600 doses pretty quickly. If we are able to get more doses at that rate, I think we should be able to have everyone vaccinated – hopefully – by the end of January,” said Crowell.

Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman said the speed with which the Tribe has been able to begin delivering vaccines is directly connected to weeks of hard work by Tribal staff.

“I’d like to emphasize all the planning that’s made this process so smooth,” said Forsman. “My hands are up to the people in the Human Services Department and Emergency Operation Center. I’m really impressed with all the hard work they had to do, even during the Christmas holiday, to get this set up. The EOC, headed up by Cherrie May, and Human Services led by Nehreen Ayub, and also the important work of our Community Health nurse, Dr. Barbara Hoffman, have all done a great job coordinating staff to make this vaccination a great success so far.”

COVID-19 Vaccination Resources

Suquamish Tribe has begun COVID-19 vaccinations. The following resources are intended to help answer questions and provide resources to Tribal members and their families. Click on the links to view the documents. Each link will bring up a PDF, so you can also save to your computer for printing or viewing later.

COVID-19 Vaccination – What to Expect
Because COVID-19 is a new disease requiring new vaccines, you may have questions about what happens before, during, and after your vaccination appointment. These tips outline what to expect when you get vaccinated, what information your provider will give you, and what resources you can use to monitor your health after you are vaccinated.

Moderna Vaccine – 10 Quick FAQs
Here’s a quick one-sheet Q&A on the Moderna vaccine, which is the specific vaccine Suquamish Tribal Council has decided to provide.

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions
Got more questions? We’ve got more answers! Here’s a more lengthy Q&A rundown. If you still have unanswered questions – or have concerns or comments – email Covid_Questions@suquamish.nsn.us and the appropriate Tribal Government staff member will respond as soon as possible.

Vaccination Screening and Consent Form
You will need to read and sign this form will prior to getting your vaccination. A copy will be provided at the vaccination site, but if you want to save time, you can print it out and sign it now.

V-safe Information Sheet
V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you. And v-safe will remind you to get your second COVID-19 vaccine dose. Click here to learn more.

Tribe welcomes New Year with COVID-19 Vaccinations

 

As the sun sets on 2020, the Suquamish Tribe begins COVID-19 vaccinations.

A small group of healthcare providers and support staff received their first doses this week. That sets the stage for mass vaccinations, starting with Tribal Elders, beginning on Monday, Jan. 4.

In this New Year’s Eve video, Interim Suquamish Tribe Co-Directors Scott Crowell and Jamie Gooby provide details on how vaccinations for the Tribe will unfold in the coming days and weeks as the Tribe looks forward to 2021.

Suquamish Tribe COVID-19 Testing Site: Holiday Closure Schedule

The Tribal Government offices, and therefore the Tribal Covid-19 testing site, will be closed Dec. 18 – Jan. 3

We will resume testing on:

Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm

 

The following list includes other testing sites that can be used.  We have called and verified the information, however, we recommend you call first.  Be sure you take your insurance cards.

  

Immediate Clinic Poulsbo

(360) 779-7011

COVID-19 testing center

Appointment required- schedule appointment online

Referral not required

Testing for all patients

Hours: 8am-8pm

 

Franciscan Medical Clinic- Bainbridge Island

COVID-19 testing center

Appointment required- call (206) 201-0488 to schedule

Referral not required

Testing for all patients

Hours:

M-F: 7am-6:30pm, Sa-Sun: 8am-4:30pm

Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Open until noon Christmas Eve

Open until 5pm New Year’s Eve

 

The Doctors Clinic Ridgetop East

(360) 782-3400

COVID-19 testing center

Appointment not required

Referral not required

Testing people with COVID symptoms or recent/probable exposure

Hours:

M-F: 9am-7pm, Sa-Sun: 9am-5pm

Closed Christmas

 

Harrison Belfair Urgent Care

(360) 277-2975

COVID-19 testing center

Appointment not required

Referral not required

Testing for all patients

Hours:

M-F: 7:30am-7:30pm, Sa-Sun 7:30am-7:30pm

Christmas: 9am-4pm

 

Kitsap County Community COVID testing sites:

Appointment required for Kitsap County community COVID testing. Register online here or by phone at (360) 728-2235.

 

Kitsap County Fairgrounds

1336  NW Fairgrounds Rd

Bremerton, WA

Center the grands by Gordon Field

Monday to Thursday 10am -3pm

360-728-2235

 

Kitsap Conference Center

Bremerton Harborside Parking Garage  level 2 green

100 Washington Ave

Bremerton
Tuesday only 10am to 3pm

360-758-2235

 

Poulsbo City Hall

200 Moe Street NE

Poulsbo

Friday only 9am to 2:30

360-728-2235

 

Suquamish Government Picks Moderna Vaccine for Distribution to Tribal Community

Tribe Now Entering Critical Period to Prevent Spread of Disease

The Suquamish Tribal Council, following the recommendation of the Tribe’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Barbara Hoffman, has decided to provide the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Tribal membership and staff as it becomes available.

The Moderna vaccine is expected to gain approval for emergency use from the Food and Drug Administration this week. While it remains unclear how quickly mass vaccinations will begin, Tribal officials expect the first small batches of doses to begin arriving shortly after the New Year with additional supplies increasing over the following weeks.

Tribal officials have prioritized vaccinations to Elders and those most at-risk from COVID-19, as well as continuity of government to ensure leaders and critical staff are able to keep distribution moving.

“We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that tunnel is still pretty long,” says EOC Manager Cherrie May. “It will still be several months before we can get everyone vaccinated.”

That’s why it is so important for everyone to continue staying focused on preventing the spread of the virus.

“Wear your masks, keep your distances, and please – please – don’t gather outside your immediate households. I know that will be hard during the holidays, but it is so important. We really can pull together right now, by staying apart.”

Kitsap County and the Suquamish Tribe, like much of the country, is seeing a surge in positive cases. The spike is largely attributed to extended families and friends gathering together for Thanksgiving.

“Let’s not make that same mistake here over Christmas and New Year’s,” says May. “The risk is too big. The consequences are too severe. The lives of our loved ones are at stake.”

 

Picking Moderna

Meanwhile, Tribal staff are hard at work preparing for vaccine distribution.

The Tribal Council had the choice of two vaccines — one offered by Pifzer and the other by Moderna.

“In close consultation with our medical experts, we determined the Moderna vaccine provided the best option for our community,” says Hoffman.

The vaccines are more similar than they are different, with the exception of how they are stored

The Moderna vaccine is about 95 percent effective. It requires two doses, about a month apart, to achieve that high level of effectiveness.  This is a new type of vaccine that helps people create virus-fighting antibodies without actually infecting them with COVID-19.

And, finally, some people will feel the same short-term, flu-like side effects from either vaccine. Health experts at FDA and CDC stress that most side effects are a sign that the vaccine is working as intended.

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which has more demanding frozen storage and distribution protocols, Moderna’s vaccine can be stored four degrees below zero, which is a standard freezer temperature. After it’s thawed, it can be administered for up to 30 days.

“The logistics of providing the vaccine to the entire Tribal community will be unprecedented for us,” says May. “A lot of work is going into planning and preparing for that, so getting the increased flexibility that Moderna gives us is huge.”

 

Side effects are a good sign

They may not feel like it at the time, but most side effects from the vaccine are a good thing, say health experts.

“They show the body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing,” says Suquamish Tribe’s Public Health Officer Dr. Barbara Hoffman. “It shows that your immune system is working by creating the antibodies you need to fight off the disease.”

Potential side effects include pain or swelling at the injection site, muscle and joint aches, fever, nausea, and headache.

“The most common side effects noted in vaccine trials were pain and swelling at the injection site,” says Hoffman. “For most study participants, side effects were mild to moderate and subsided within one to three days.

But don’t worry if you don’t feel those side effects, she says. “It’s still working. The vast majority of those who get both doses – and it’s really important everyone gets both doses – will be protected.”

Pull Together

A message from Suquamish Tribal Elders on the importance of pulling together during this most dangerous hour of the pandemic by doing everything we can to stay safely apart.