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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follows the recommendation of its advisory panel’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of the weekend and gives the green-light to the distribution, the Navajo Nation is expected to receive its first dosages sometime next week.

The news is welcomed on the nation’s largest Indian reservation where another 347 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Thursday.

“In accordance with the CDC recommendations, the first doses of the vaccine will be given to health care workers and those living in long-term assisted living facilities on a voluntary basis,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said on Thursday.

“This will be a challenging process, but our health care experts are doing the very best they can while they also continue to work around the clock to fight for all of us on the frontlines.”

Nez says the new 346 new cases are likely the impact from the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

“As we approach the Christmas holiday, we have to do more to hold ourselves accountable and to inform our loved ones about the risks of in-person gatherings. Please continue to stay home as much as possible during the current three-week lockdown,” Nez continued.

Earlier this year, the Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board, the National Indian Health Service IRB, and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health IRB approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. As of Dec. 8, over 43,000 people have volunteered for the Pfizer vaccine trials worldwide, including members of the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Moderna is also seeking approval from the FDA for its COVID-19 vaccine, which has also shown 94.5-percent effectiveness. Navajo Area IHS is developing plans for the distribution of the vaccines on the Navajo Nation, if or when the vaccines are approved by the FDA. 

In addition to the 347 new reported Covid-19 cases reported on Thursday, the Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, six more deaths. The total number of deaths is now 699 as of Thursday. Reports indicate that 10,256 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 178,801 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 18,943, including 21 delayed reported cases. 

Navajo Nation COVID-19 positive cases by Service Unit:

  • Chinle Service Unit: 3,709
  • Crownpoint Service Unit: 2,040
  • Ft. Defiance Service Unit: 2,020
  • Gallup Service Unit: 3,128
  • Kayenta Service Unit: 1,897
  • Shiprock Service Unit: 3,057
  • Tuba City Service Unit: 1,916
  • Winslow Service Unit: 1,155

* 21 residences with COVID-19 positive cases are not specific enough to place them accurately in a Service Unit. On Thursday, the state of Utah reported 3,401 cases, Arizona reported 4,928 new cases, and New Mexico reported 1,791.

For more information, including helpful prevention tips, and resources to help stop the spread of COVID-19, visit the Navajo Department of Health's COVID-19 website: http://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19. For COVID-19 related questions and information, call (928) 871-7014.

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].