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WASHINGTON — The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) released a statement Monday commending the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine last week. 

“With Phase One of the vaccine distribution starting this week, NIHB stands ready to work with Operation Warp Speed, the Indian Health Service and Tribal Nations to ensure that the vulnerable and high risk populations in Tribal communities receive a vaccine,” NIHB CEO Stacy A. Bohlen said in a statement. “We know the task ahead poses many challenges, from tricky distribution logistics to coordinating vaccination events on tight timelines to data reporting every step of the way, however it is more important than ever to meet these challenges head on.”

On Friday, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) vaccine advisory committee voted on Saturday to administer the Pfizer vaccine to people 16 years and older.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) plans to distribute the vaccine to all of its 11 regional programs in the lower 48 states. The distribution of the vaccine to Alaska Native IHS facilities will be sent to the state of Alaska.

While Friday's FDA approval announcement was welcome news for Indian Country, as well as the rest of the nation, the approval was only for the vaccine developed by Pfizer, which represents only one-third of the initial purchase by IHS. The IHS distribution plan calls for two-thirds of the vaccine to come from Moderna, which is yet to be approved by the FDA.

Read NIHB’s full statement from CEO Bohlen below:

“The National Indian Health Board commends the FDA for approving the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Swift and equitable distribution of this vaccine, and others that may also receive an EUA, will help slow and eventually stop the spread of the virus across our nation and Tribal communities. With Phase One of the vaccine distribution starting this week, NIHB stands ready to work with Operation Warp Speed, the Indian Health Service and Tribal Nations to ensure that the vulnerable and high risk populations in Tribal communities receive a vaccine. We know the task ahead poses many challenges, from tricky distribution logistics to coordinating vaccination events on tight timelines to data reporting every step of the way, however it is more important than ever to meet these challenges head on. Tribes are ready to take on these challenges to protect the health of their citizens.”

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