GRIC Continues Mass Vaccination Events Against COVID-19

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News


On Saturday, Apr. 10, the Gila River Indian Community held a vaccination event at the Lone Butte Casino, drawing hundreds of Community members and a number of special guests, including the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, Arizona Diamondbacks’ Baxter the Bobcat, and Sparky, the mascot for Arizona State University.


Gila River Health Care reports that the number of Community members who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to steadily increase after a number of mass vaccination events.


As of Apr, 12, 55 percent of Community members age 55 years or older have received a vaccination – a critical figure since elders are most at risk for COVID-19 related illness. Additionally, 20 percent of Community members 16 years and older have received the vaccine. With vaccines increasing, the Community is drawing closer to achieving “Community Immunity.”


“We are all coming together today to ensure we are getting as many vaccinated as possible,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, who was on site for the Saturday event. 


Lt. Gov. Monica Antone said she’s pleased that the Community has been able to continue hosting vaccination events – and also to vaccinate members of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. “We have all, at the COVID-19 Task Force, worked hard to ensure everyone can get a vaccination, and I am thankful that we can include the Ak-Chin Indian Community,” said Lt. Gov. Antone. 


With the arrival of the “U.K COVID-19 Variant” in the state, Lt. Gov. Antone stressed the need for vaccinations. “All of Indian Country is working hard to fight and protect our people,” said Antone, “and by getting a vaccination, you are ensuring your protection against the U.K. variant too.”


Dr. Anthony Santiago, the CEO of Gila River Health Care stressed that the new dominant version of the COVID-19 virus in the US at this time, the U.K. variant, requires a renewed effort to be vaccinated.


“Research shows that the U.K. variant is more contagious and is more easily spread between people; once infected people harbor the virus longer than the original version, as much as 30% longer; and, it has been shown to infect younger people more easily, has increased hospitalizations and unfortunately may be more likely to be fatal.


But just as important is that our current vaccines, the Pfizer, Moderna and the Janssen are very effective against the UK Variant. Being vaccinated will protect people from becoming ill, it will save lives.”The Navajo Nation recently reported a case of the U.K. Variant on their reservation.


Vaccinations play a crucial role in keeping everyone safe as the state begins easing some COVID-19 safety restrictions. On Apr. 9, the Community’s Executive Order No. 10 was released and safety guideline requirements that affect Community gatherings, distance learning for students, and employees’ safely returning to work. 


Vaccination event organizers, such as Gila River Gaming Enterprises, ensured the indoor setting would provide minimal wait times and safety for everyone that day. This event was the second Community vaccination event that included members of the neighboring Ak-Chin Indian Community. 


The Apr. 10 event made use of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. The shot has since been paused by the Community following guidance from the CDC, after reports that six individual in the United States who got the vaccine afterward experienced blood clots. 


Nearly 7 million people have gotten this vaccine in the U.S. to date which represents only 0.000088 of those vaccinated.


On Monday, Apr. 26, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., another vaccination event is scheduled at the Rawhide Event Center at Wild Horse Pass for anyone still seeking a vaccination, which will be the Pfizer variant of the vaccine. Community members can also get a vaccination at all Gila River Health Care facilities as well.