COVID-19 mandates take effect
All employees working at any Navajo government office, department, program or chapter are required to be fully vaccinated or show proof they are not infected with COVID-19.
An executive order and Navajo Nation Council resolution mandate all tribal employees must be vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
The executive order, which went into effect on Wednesday, mandates that workers at tribal enterprises be vaccinated, while the resolution, which was approved by a vote of 12-6, only “urges” enterprises and “authorities, corporations, businesses, schools, and entities operating within Navajo Nation boundaries to promptly adopt COVID-19 vaccination requirements.”
The executive order was issued on Aug. 20 and the resolution was certified on Aug. 31. President Jonathan Nez did not approve or veto the resolution during his 10-day review period.
The resolution affects legislative, executive and judicial branch employees, as well as those working with chapters.
Similar to the executive order, the resolution requires all employees who are not fully vaccinated to provide documentation to their supervisor every 14 days.
As of of Sept. 29, the Navajo Department of Health reported 67 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of positive cases to 33,907. A total of 1,447 people have died from the highly contagious respiratory disease.
A flu and COVID-19 vaccination was held last Saturday at Red Rock Park in Church Rock, N.M.
Dr. Jonathan Iralu, chief clinical consultant for infectious diseases at Gallup Indian Medical Center, said the Indian Health Service will give third booster shots to people over the age of 65. Initially the booster was only available to people with immunocompromised health conditions.
“And then we are recommending that we should give the vaccine to individuals over 50 who have underlying medical conditions,” he added. “So that’s a new one.”
People age 50 and above who have underlying health conditions, like diabetes, overweight or obesity, high blood pressure, asthma, emphysema or chronic bronchitis and heart conditions, are eligible to get the third shot, Iralu said.
For children, currently the Pfizer vaccine is only available to anyone over the age of 12. The vaccine is being tested on children between the ages of 5 and 12. Iralu said it may become available for those children by the end of the year.
“On the horizon, the vaccine is not yet officially approved for age five through 12, but the Pfizer company now has some evidence that it’s really safe,” Iralu said. “It provides a very strong, robust antibody response, so they’re presenting that to the FDA. We might hear some news sometime this fall or winter about this school aged kids.”
He said the flu vaccine is available for people who are six years old and up.
“And we know that they’re very strongly protective,” he said of the flu vaccine, “and they help keep people out of the hospital and keep them out of the ICU and hopefully save their life.”