GRIC Members Receive Booster Shot at COVID-19 Vaccination Event
We are in a race to save lives, every shot in the arm saves lives.” - Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis
Gila River Indian News
Gila River Indian Community members and employees of the Gila River Hotels & Casinos received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination on Mar. 20 at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. The event marked the third large-scale vaccination event organized by the Community at the venue in the past two months.
“We are a model for the country, what we are doing [here],” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis on the Community’s ability to coordinate the mass vaccination events. “It’s important not to let our guard down. We are getting shots in the arm and vaccinated, which is good, but we need more Community members who have not gotten vaccinated to do so. We are in a race to save lives, every shot in the arm saves lives.”
Lewis said that as more Community members get vaccinated, “We will get closer and closer to ‘Community Immunity’ which will lead us out of the pandemic.” Gov. Lewis commended the Community’s partners for their help in the coordinating the events, saying the vaccination program would not be possible without the help of first responders, volunteers, state and federal partners including the Arizona National Guard, the Biden Administration, the Indian Health Service, and the Arizona Congressional delegation.
The roll-out of the vaccination has been well received by many Community members, who appreciate GRIC’s efforts to get the vaccine out to its members. “It’s good to know the Community is doing [this] for us,” said District 1 member Audrey Evans, who cares for elders.
District 6 member Kristal Zelenak also received a vaccination at the March 20th event. “I’m getting the vaccine to stay safe, for my family and especially my mother.”
At first Zelenak was hesitant to get the vaccine, but after careful research and trusting the information of local health officials, she chose to get vaccinated.
She urged Community members who may still be hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine to do their research. “Look into the vaccine,” said Zelenak, “trust the healthcare professionals with what they are saying and do your homework.”
Dr. Antony Santiago, the Chief Executive Officer of Gila River Healthcare (GRHC) said the Community largely has been receptive to the COVID-19 vaccine. Santiago assured the Community that the vaccine is completely safe.
“Right now, we all need to be vaccinated to get past this critical moment,” said Santiago. “We need people [now] to do their part, because not only does the vaccine save your life, but also someone else. (By getting the vaccine), you lessen the risk of transmitting it to someone else. That’s what gets us to community immunity.”
Santiago described GRHC’s efforts of getting more Community members vaccinated as “critically important.” Governor Lewis explained how efforts are underway to acquire mobile vaccination units that will allow vaccines to be taken out into the Community. Lewis said “If the people can’t come out to receive the vaccines, we will bring the vaccines to the people.”
Santiago added, “Ultimately, we will go door-to-door for those Community members that are homebound, even out into the district communities themselves with mobile units to administer the vaccines.”
Candalerian Preston, Director of the Tribal Health Department, said that while COVID-19 cases are on the downswing in the Community, they are still occurring. Preston also described the vaccine as an important step for all Community members.
Current eligibility guidelines have opened the vaccine to Community members and their spouse, including the spouse of an enrolled member who lives off the Community. Eligibility also extends to Ak-Chin Indian Community members who reside on and off of their community, spouses and members of the household who are age 18 years and older.
Preston said the updates are all part of the Community’s effort to reach herd immunity and to save lives.“It is important for adults to come out and get vaccinated,” said Preston. “Especially 20-to-44-year-old individuals, who are most effected by the virus. (They should) come out and get vaccinated, not only for them, but for their families and children.”
With the recent changes in eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, youth 16 and 17 year olds can now receive the Pfizer vaccine with permission from their parent or guardian. Parents and guardians can contact GRHC COVID Hotline at 520-550-6079, or schedule an appointment at 520-550-1482 between the hours of 8:00am and 6:00pm.
Appointments are only being taken at the Huhukam Memorial Hospital and Komtake Health Center Primary Care Departments.