Elders Receive COVID-19 Vaccination at D3 Boys & Girls Club

Emma Hughes
Gila River Indian News



Nearly 100 elders received vaccines at a walk-in vaccination event held at the Boys & Girls Club in Sacaton on Feb. 6.

Prior to the COVID-19 vaccination events scheduled for Feb. 13 and Feb. 20, Gila River Healthcare hosted the event for all GRIC elders ages 55 and older, including GRIC urban members as well as all non-GRIC elders age 55 and older living within GRIC boundaries.


“We decided to have a no-schedule appointment event, so we can get more [elders] in quicker,” said Steve Schoffstall, Director of Physical Therapy from Gila River Health Care. Several departments were on hand to assist elders during their vaccination including registration, nursing, and members of the COVID-19 Taskforce including GRHC CEO Dr. Anthony Santiago.


“It’s a huge team effort,” said Schoffstall, who acknowledged others who have made this possible, from security to the Gila River Health Care Board of Directors. He also shared how GRHC anticipated a vaccination rollout within the Community before the FDA authorized emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer- BioNTech and Moderna, which are both used by GRHC.

Dr. Wesley Yamada, Interim Chief Medical Officer for Gila River Health Care, has been with the Community for 34 years and discussed possible concerns someone might have about the vaccine, such as the effectiveness. 


“They have both [Moderna & Pfizer] shown efficacy rates of around 95 percent,” said Dr. Yamada. “We want to get the vaccine in the arms of anybody and everybody in the Community who wants one. The sooner we can get both doses of the vaccine into everyone’s arm, the sooner we can get back to a sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Yamada.

Marc and Lois Corona showed up to the event, and expressed their gratitude to see the COVID-19 vaccine available to all elders residing in GRIC.


“I feel OK and I’m really grateful for this event, to be able to get vaccinated,” said Mr. Corona. 

“We’re very grateful and blessed that we can both get it,” said Mrs. Corona of her and her husband.

Melissa Lill, a nurse practitioner with Gila River Health Care, has led a team to assist in administering the vaccine to GRIC essential employees and elders. 


“Everyone here is here on a voluntary basis. It’s not mandatory for them to be vaccinated,” said Lill when discussing the response of the patients who were expectedly excited and nervous.

“We’re here to support them and answer any questions,” she said.


The plan to distribute the vaccine to those within the Community has been done in phases. Healthcare workers and at-risk elders (Phase 1a) were the first to receive the vaccine when it arrived in the Community followed by essential employees (Phase 1b). After completing those two phases, GRIC members 55 and older (Phase 1c) regardless of prior health conditions, were welcome to schedule an appointment with Gila River Health Care clinics to get vaccinated. Currently the Boys & Girls Club in Sacaton is open through the week for vaccinations for essential employees and GRIC members 18 and up.