AOPPYC Hosts Vaccine Town Hall to Encourage Youth to Vaccinate Against COVID-19

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News


Families, parents, and youth gathered for the Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council’s Virtual Community Town Hall Tuesday, June 8. The event focused on youth vaccinations against COVID-19. It featured Community leaders and Gila River Health Care (GHRC) professionals addressing concerns about the Pfizer vaccine, discussing the vaccine’s effectiveness, and answering questions from the audience.


AOPPYC President Susanna Osife hosted the event and shared her own experience about having received the vaccine. With Community members age 12 and older now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, the event provided vaccine education and worked to help alleviate hesitations about the vaccine.  


“Everyone should continue to educate yourselves and ask questions about the vaccine for the sake of your health, because that is what is important to all of us,” said Osife. “For the youth that have not been vaccinated, remember this is for your health. You have our entire Community that’s here to support you, so ask all the questions you need to make the best decision for your health and protection against COVID-19.” 


Governor Stephen Roe Lewis offered opening remarks for the event, aiming his message at the young people in attendance. “You did a great job getting through this past school year, and we have the summer to look forward,” said Gov. Lewis. “Getting the vaccine is one of those important things you can do to protect yourself, to protect your family and to protect our community – so that we can get to the point of community immunity.” 


Gov. Lewis shared that as of June 8, an estimated 4.4% of younger Community members had received the vaccination. He added that he hoped the Town Hall would reduce family concerns and increase vaccinations among GRIC youth.“You, the young people, are the shining generation that will get us through this pandemic, and you are our future,” said Gov. Lewis.


Most of the audience questions asked at the Town Hall concerned potential allergic reactions, anxiety about the shot and fear of needles, side effects, and families with mixed views on getting the vaccine. In response, GRHC pediatrician Dr. Navaz Dolasa shared the vaccination process and the necessary aftercare that follows youth vaccinations.


Dr. Dolasa assured the audience that  side effects that might occur would likely be minimal, depending on the individual. Dr Dolasa emphasized the importance of consistent follow-up via phone calls between families and GRHC. 


Dr. Anthony Santiago, the Chief Medical Officer for GRHC, dispelled the notion that the vaccine itself was “rushed” or developed and administered in less than a year. Dr. Santiago pointed out the COVID-19 vaccination history, citing its almost 20-year development that began from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.