Thoreau elderly get first shots of vaccine
Retired Navajo Transit driver Benjamin Henio, 70, who also worked for Kerr-McGee, the former uranium mining company, “for many years,” said he wouldn’t have a chance against COVID-19 if he were to get it. There was no second-guessing about whether he should get the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
So he got in line at the Thoreau Chapter House where staff from the Crownpoint Service Unit on Tuesday morning – clad in face shields, N95 masks, nitrile gloves, and scrubs – went from vehicle to vehicle administering the shot to local residents age 65 and older. Since the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world almost a year ago, Henio said his daily life stopped too.
“I hope it’ll help,” the Coolidge, New Mexico, native said as he sat in line with his 12-year-old granddaughter. “We are tired being in the house, staying home,” he said. “We got other things to do out there. I hope this will be our recovery for the Navajo Nation.”
The Navajo Nation received 26,360 doses. Of that, more than 18,100 doses, or about 70%, of the Pfizer vaccine to date have been given to health care workers, high-risk patients, and the elderly across the reservation, according to the Navajo Nation Department of Health. At the vaccination drive-through held at the Thoreau Chapter, 120 to 150 senior citizens got the first dose of the two-dose vaccine, which is 94% effective, according to its maker, Pfizer.
“We got to put everybody back to work and everybody back in school. It’s hard out here on the reservation,” Henio said. “The vaccine, if it works, it will lift everything back up. We are all looking forward to that.” After asked if he had gotten COVID-19 within the last 90 days and being told to take Tylenol if he started feeling sick, which is one of the side effects of the Pfizer vaccine, Sloan lowered his T-shirt as a registered nurse administered the shot to his bicep.
“We’re not getting enough of the vaccination for everybody,” he said, after getting the shot. “Other places everybody is getting the vaccine, but the reservation, we just get so much amount. People living in the city, they can just go next door to the hospital, but on the reservation, you have to travel long distances just to get to the hospital.”
Vicky L. Charley, who administered more than 50 shots, said she was happy to see the local elderly come out to get vaccinated.
“It feels good,” said Charley, who is a registered nurse at the Crownpoint Service Unit. “We’ve lost so many elderlies already. When you’ve seen, firsthand, what our elders went through, how hard they’re breathing, you’re there to help them.”
Since March of last year, when she was reassigned to the emergency room, she has seen what COVID-19 has done to residents. “It’s been an experience for me. I’ve seen everything, so I am glad they are coming to get the shot,” Charley said. She’s even seen a few of the area’s traditional practitioners drive through to get vaccinated. “We’re losing them as well,” she said.
Charley, who was exposed to the virus after getting vaccinated, said she feels the vaccine works. She just wishes the drug was available four months ago. “That way I wouldn’t have lost a family member,” she said. “I had to do CPR on a family member – they did not make it.
“Then my whole family got exposed,” she said. “Some of my family members are still quarantined because of it. I’ve been lucky because I got my vaccine. I’m glad they’re coming out to get vaccinated.”
Charley said some people might not experience any side effects after getting the vaccine, but others could experience headaches, a sore arm, fever and abdominal pain. “Tylenol will help with the arm pain because it’s like getting a Tetanus shot, that’s what I tell people,” she said.
Another Thoreau elder, Edison Sloan, 72, said the virus has taken too many Navajos and it must stop. “I think all of us want it go away as quickly as possible,” said the father of three daughters and grandfather of four. “There are a lot people that are getting sick. I think this is going to benefit our Navajo people.” Sloan’s daughter Leah Sloan, who drove her father to the vaccination event, said she was happy her dad got the shot. “With this virus you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Now that he’s getting the shot, he’ll be kind of protected from the virus.”
On Wednesday, Allen Jones, who is part of the IHS Incident Command and an operations chief, said they administered more vaccinations in Pueblo Pintado. Today, he said, they would be in Crownpoint to administer the vaccine to elderly residents.
“Stay home, continue wearing a mask, continue social distancing, and wash your hands for 20 seconds or more,” Jones said, adding that people who have received the vaccine were not advised to discontinue any of the public health orders. “That’s what’s going to help.”
In about 21 days, Jones said they would be back out in the communities to give the second dose.
Anyone age 65 and older wanting to get vaccinated should reach out to their IHS service unit or health care provider regarding vaccination schedules.