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Nez, Damon, senior delegates get COVID-19 vaccine

Nez, Damon, senior delegates get COVID-19 vaccine


Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Speaker Seth Damon, and a handful of Council delegates took the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine today at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

In hopes to ease the concerns Navajo people, especially elders, may have about the COVID-19 vaccine, leadership met up at GIMC Thursday morning and live-streamed themselves getting the shots on social media.

“Today what we are here to do is I hope (promote) public confidence in taking the vaccine,” said Nez before getting his vaccine. “As the leader of the great Navajo Nation I want to show our elders and our Navajo people that we support our scientists and health care professionals.”

Earlier this month 3,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines were sent to the Navajo Nation to be distributed in three phases, the first one being health care workers, emergency medical staff, traditional practioners, and all staff and patients in long-term nursing facilities.

The second group, already being vaccinated at some IHS facilities, is: essential workers that provide food, supplies, transportations or utilities to the Navajo people. The third group, 1C, is all high-risk patients and adults over 65.

Also, 7,800 Moderna vaccines have been shipped to the Navajo Nation and were already making their way into arms this week.

“We need to push back on this virus,” said Nez. “It’s not about jumping in front of the line. It’s about modeling.”

Some 225 new COVID-19 positive cases and two more deaths were reported on the Navajo Nation as of Wednesday. Reports indicate that 11,714 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 201,899 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 22,776.

The handful of senior Council Delegates receiving their shots Thursday included Health, Education and Human Services Committee members Paul Begay and Edison Wauneka, and the chair of the committee, Daniel Tso, as well as Law and Order Committee member Eugene Tso.

Navajo Times | Sharon Chischilly
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (right) speaks with senior council delegates on Dec. 31, 2020, at Gallup Indian Medical Center as they prepare to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are the one who is really pushing it,” said Wauneka, “telling the people to stay home and obey the policies. If we are going to do that then we need to take the role in volunteering (for) the process. We shouldn’t be just telling them, because we are leadership, to do this or that; we need to be a part of the process.”

It wasn’t too long ago Wauneka tested positive for COVID-19 and was taken to the hospital; he was able to recover. But he worries about his constituents because he knows the battle first-hand.

“I really suffered,” explained Wuaneka. “The first day I had a real hard time catching my breath, the second day I couldn’t take it any longer. So I told myself ‘Forget it. I’ll just let it be.’”

But as soon as he gave up “the monster” backed off and it became easier to breathe. He said leaders need to “work with the people,” and by that he said he means obeying all the public health mandates.

Navajo Times | Sharon Chischilly
A Navajo Nation council delegate awaits getting the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 31, 2020, at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

The Navajo Department of Health issued Public Health Emergency Order No. 2020-032, which is in effect through Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 with the following provisions:

  • Extends the Stay-At-Home Lockdown which requires all residents to remain at home 24-hours, seven days a week, with the exceptions of essential workers that must report to work, emergency situations, to obtain essential food, medication, and supplies, tend to livestock, outdoor exercising within the immediate vicinity of your home, wood gathering and hauling with a permit.
  • Re-implements full 57-hour weekend lockdowns for two additional weekends from 8 p.m. MST through 5 a.m. MST Jan. 1 through 4, 2021, and for the same hours on Jan. 8 through Jan. 11, 2021.
  • Essential businesses including gas stations, grocery stores, laundromats, restaurants and food establishments that provide drive-thru and curbside services, and hay vendors can operate from 7 a.m. (MST) to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday only.
  • Refrain from gathering with individuals from outside your immediate household and requiring all residents to wear a mask in public, avoid public gatherings, maintain social (physical) distancing, remain in your vehicle for curb-side and drive-through services.

Navajo Times | Sharon Chischilly
Navajo Nation council delegates await their turn to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 31, 2020, at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @abecenti


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