Navajo Nation outpaces wider US: 60 percent fully vaccinated

The Navajo Nation continues to lead the United States in vaccination efforts, having fully vaccinated 102,372 individuals as of May 15 – 60 percent of the tribal lands’ population of roughly 170,000 – according to data released on Thursday

By comparison, the US has fully vaccinated 37.8 percent of its population as of May 19, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. The US state with the highest percentage, Maine, sits at 50 percent fully vaccinated.

The Navajo Nation, which encompasses an area larger than West Virginia across four states that effectively serves as a reservation, reached this feat roughly six months after vaccine distribution began.

It did so with a hard-to-reach rural population that tends to be elderly, according to figures from the Navajo Housing Authority (PDF).President Joe Biden, who has made the COVID-19 the defining issue of his early presidency, has set a goal of 70 percent fully vaccinated by July 4.

 

Biden has placed importance on distributing the vaccine to rural populations, whose vaccination rates have lagged behind urban populations, as key to reaching the goal.

Success through adaptation

Dr Loretta Christensen, acting chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service (IHS) who is also the chief medical officer for IHS operations on the Navajo Nation (NAIHS), told Al Jazeera the success came through adaptability.

The Navajo Nation has been at the forefront of vaccine distribution methods. NAIHS personnel and volunteers have staffed vaccination sites, including drive-thrus, for hours-long shifts during the past six months.

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