Suquamish Tribe Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations
Initial Effort Focuses on Tribal Elders
The Suquamish Tribe received its first 600-dose allotment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Dec. 28. Tribal health professionals inspected the shipment Tuesday and began administering the vaccine to nursing staff today to prepare them for vaccinations to Tribal Elders and their spouses/partners beginning on Monday, Jan. 4.
“Ten of the Tribe’s healthcare providers and employees who will be administering the vaccine, began getting their vaccinations this afternoon,” said Cherrie May, manager of the Tribe’s Emergency Operations Center, on Dec 30. “That will give them time to fully recover from any possible side effects so they are able to administer the vaccinations and monitor side effects of those being vaccinated.”
Some people may feel flu-like symptoms – potentially body aches, fever, and nausea, among them – for up to a few days after getting the vaccine.
“Those side effects are a good thing, because it means the vaccine is doing what it’s supposed to do,” said Tribal Health Officer Dr. Barbara Hoffman. “But we don’t want the people who are needed most to distribute the vaccine going through those side effects just as we’re beginning vaccinations. So, we’re building in some buffer time.”
Working with the Tribe’s Emergency Operations Center and healthcare providers, Elders Program staff are now scheduling Tribal Elders for their vaccinations through next week, said May.
“The first Elders should get vaccinated on Monday and we will do more and more each day as we fine-tune our process,” said May. Tribal government employees in high-risk, frontline positions needed to support the vaccination effort and keep the government operating will be scheduled as well.
Vaccinations will be provided on the ground floor of the Clearwater Casino’s original garage.
May noted vaccinations on this scale are unprecedented for the Tribe. That heavy lift has only been complicated by uncertainty on vaccine availability, quantities, and other key logistical questions.
“Because definitive answers have been elusive, our planning efforts have had to remain fluid. Therefore, out of necessity, we’ve had to take an assumption-based approach based on limited information, modifying things as information has become available,” said May. “Until vaccine doses actually got here, we did not know how many doses would be delivered nor when they would arrive. That’s why planning efforts have remained flexible in order to adapt them as needed.
As the vaccination effort gets underway everyone in the community is strongly encouraged to continue doing everything possible to keep each other safe.
“The arrival of the first vaccines marks the beginning of the end of this nasty pandemic,” said the Tribe’s Co-executive Director Scott Crowell. “The leadership of Tribal Council, coupled with the precautions taken by Tribal community members and the hard work of staff, have minimized the impact of the pandemic on our community.”
But that hard work is not finished. It will be some months before the Tribal community is completely free of the threat of COVID-19.
“Until then, please, wear your masks, wash hands regularly, do not gather indoors with people outside of your household, and maintain at least a six-foot distance from others as much as possible,” said May.
“These are things we’ll all need to keep doing – even after we’ve gotten the vaccine – until everyone is safe,” added May.
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