COVID-19 vaccine arrives

CTUIR receives 300 doses; next round to include 55-plus with underlying symptoms

By Cary Rosenbaum & Megan Van Pelt

MISSION – “Didn’t even feel it,” CTUIR elder Chazz Webb said with a laugh after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 19.

Webb was among the first 300 Tribal and community members vaccinated at Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center. His wife was hesitant about him receiving it, he said.

She “came along, which was good,” Webb told the CUJ. “It’s something you got to do. … This stuff (the COVID-19 pandemic) is getting goofy out here. The best thing to do is get it.”

Also receiving the vaccine was Board of Trustees Chair Kat Brigham.

“I’m glad to receive the vaccine,” she said, noting “it’s important we social distance and wear our masks.”

Yellowhawk officials stated there are more vaccines at the facility ready to be administered.

“We received a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine last week and have them in the deep freezer,” officials said. “We will continue to have more en route but the number available is dependent on how many Indian Health Services sends us.”

Umatilla County had 5,863 cases, including 57 deaths as of Dec. 4, including 10 active cases on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, according to Incident Command Director Chuck Sams.

“Incident Command is concerned about the spread that is happening in Umatilla County,” Sams said, noting 100 more cases were diagnosed over the weekend.

Sams said 250 more doses are on the way through the Indian Health Services. The next age group to receive doses will be 55 and older with underlying conditions, he stated. That group will be contacted by Yellowhawk, Sams added.

“Yellowhawk is currently asking patients to not call in and check because they will be reaching out to them directly,” Sams said.

Health care workers who were vaccinated first will receive their second doses on Jan. 5, Yellowhawk officials said. Community members who received their first dose were expected to receive a second dose by the end of the first week of January.

The next phase of vaccinations will begin late January, Yellowhawk officials said.

The initial vaccine was part of an allotment received for the CTUIR, Lummi and Yakama nations. It was brought here from the Lummi Nation via Portland Area Indian Health Board Chairman Jutskadim’ Nickolaus Dee Lewis (Lummi), who drove the vaccine to the Yakama Tribe and dropped their portion off before continuing to Mission.

The CTUIR took preventative measures by adding four additional days off via admin leave as an effort to reduce COVID numbers.

“It was to encourage people to stay home and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Sams said. “That being said, we know that COVID after a holiday period takes about 2 to 2 1/2 weeks to incubate, so we will be very vigilant during that time period.”

With 20.9 million cases nationwide and more than 354,000 deaths, the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to worsen even as the vaccine rolls out.

“As Incident Commander,” Sams said, “I recognize the United States is currently at a new high for COVID- 19 and were asking the community to continue to be vigilant, wash hands, wear a mask, stay at home as much as you can.”

Yellowhawk noted the clinic will not have medical appointments available on Tuesdays or Thursdays but will operate as a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, officials said. All other departments are operating under normal hours.