Combatting COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Among Native Americans

Knowing the exact number of vaccinated Native Americans is difficult to determine, but understanding why many choose not to get vaccinated amounts to mistrust.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — According to the Associated Press, a November report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Native Americans are nearly twice as likely to test positive, three times as likely to be hospitalized, and twice as more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people.

Vaccinations help prevent the worst effects of COVID, but some Native Americans, like all other groups, are hesitant to get vaccinated.

Virginia Hedrick, executive Director at the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, said the main reason for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Indian country is mI trust.

“IA lot of it is distrust of government systems, both state and federal,” she said.

Hedrick pointed out the spanish flu and how “disproportionate impact on Native Americans. She added that, decades later, it’s hard to find true, accurate data when it comes to cases and deaths among — not just Native Americans — but people of color.

“But you can anecdotally tell through different narratives that Indians on reservations were dying of the Spanish flu at rates not seen in other communities,” she said. “And so we have every right to be suspicious of the federal government and to be suspicious of clinical trials.

Hedrick pointed to the COVID-19 vaccine trials seen in 2020 and wondered if Native Americans were part of those trials.

“So, I think you know that kind of unboxing distrust means a lot of things. It’s the distrust of research, because we’ve all watched (the) research in real time and (we’ve been) involved… in a way that we were never bbefore and really have nothing to do. But here we are involved.

Other factors highlighted by Hedrick that create vaccine hesitancy for people in Indian Country include:

  • Distrust of the vaccine and the pandemic turned political
  • The problem of misinformation being spread online and through communities

Why it’s hard to know how many Indigenous people are vaccinated

Due to mistrust, it is difficult to determine exactly how many people in Native American communities, or in Indian Country, are vaccinated or have had COVID-19. Indeed, when the pandemic began, Indian Country health officials and officials in California and across the United States had to make a choice: either opt for vaccine distribution through Indian Health Services (IHS ), or the state they were in.

“It’s really interesting as an Indian, isn’t it? Like who do we trust in this pandemic? Who’s going to get through this?” said Hedrick.

In the end, she said that many tribal health and Indian urban organizations immediately opted for IHS.

Almost the same day that California itself received federal vaccines, we immediately allocated vaccines to our Indian health programs and ahead of our other community health center partners in our same county.And the (tribal) clinics that chose the state changed their minds,” Hedrick said.

But there is a puzzle.

IHS is a federal entity and not a state-run organization, so it is difficult to obtain and receive exact data on who has been vaccinated or how many.

“YoUKnow, originally, we thought, “Well, that’s okay be easy’, but it is not easy. It’s like two daysdifferent HR systems. Some of them were working with current human resources, some weren’t,” Hedrick said. “Ultimately some facilities got some from the state and some got some from the feds, and so the ones they got from the state they got into the state, the ones they got feds, they got them into the feds. »

She said it’s the same problem when it comes to reporting the number of COVID-19 cases among Native Americans.

Combating Vaccine Hesitancy in Indian Country

There is a push to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Indian Country at national and state level.

Just this month, it was announced that the latest phase of the For the Love of Our People campaign – a partnership between IllumiNative and Urban Indian Health Institute – is using $900,000 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to focus on family. and generational pride to encourage vaccinations.

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg are distributing $15 million to a range of nonprofits working to build confidence in vaccines among those hardest hit by the pandemic, said Kishore Hari, program manager for the Initiative. Chan Zuckerberg at the Associated Press.

Especially with the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, accurate and reliable information is vital to the health of our community…

Posted by Urban Indian Health Institute on Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Here in the state, the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health has continued to host Facebook Live sessions that bring together Native American health officials to provide participants with information and facts.

“Tthen we started posting as much information as possible, like chewable and digestible infographics.n language (and) that made sense to people in terms of our values ​​as Indigenous people,” Hedrick said.


(Editor’s note: This article has been edited to remove some of the vaccine distribution data that has been misinterpreted.)

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