Community Immunization Events Lead to Vaccination of Over 1,500 GRIC Members and Employees
The Gila River Indian Community held two successful vaccination events at Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park on back-to-back weekends last month. The large-scale immunization events, staged on February 13th and 20th, allowed more than 1,500 Community members, employees and residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Governor Stephen Roe Lewis, who spoke of the events as “historic” and “life-saving,” thanked the Community employees, federal and state agencies, and the members of the Arizona National Guard whose collaboration made the vaccination program possible.
“I am so honored to be in the presence of (the) true heroes who gathered here today… battling this pandemic,” said Lewis. “We have been through such a hard time, but we are going to get through this together.”
Allen Nelson, a resident of District 5, described himself as grateful for the event and the peace of mind that comes with getting a vaccine. “We are extremely fortunate to receive the vaccination,” said Nelson. “We are happy the Community put this event together.”
The event was a collaboration between the Community, the Indian Health Service, the state National Guard, and the Community’s COVID-19 Taskforce. Governor Lewis kicked off the event by saying, “This pandemic has forced us to defend against an invisible enemy. These vaccination events give us the opportunity to be on the offensive and to be proactive in our efforts to protect ourselves, our families and the entire Community.”
Congressman Tom O’Halleran – who visited the Feb. 20th vaccination event – commended the Community’s efforts and efficiency in delivery of vaccines. Congressman O’Halleran has been a strong advocate for increased vaccines to those populations hardest hit by the virus, including Indian Country and the Community.
Dr. Ty Reidhead and Hope Johnson from the Indian Health Service Area Office also attended the event. Governor Lewis stated that “The Community has had a strong partnership with the Indian Health Service throughout the pandemic, and [I] appreciate the collaborative approach the agency has taken to address the specific needs of the Community.”
Reidhead called the GRIC effort a potential model for other such events throughout Indian Country. “We’ve been working with Gov. Lewis and
the Community to get the vaccines out to the people. It sets an example of what [we] might be able to do in the future.”
Other partners who made the events possible include the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, Rawhide Western Town and Events Center, the Phoenix Rising Football Club and Relentless Beats.
While the vaccines have shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19, the CDC recommends that all people – even those who have been vaccinated – continue to wear a face mask, maintain appropriate physical distance around others and wash your hands to reduce the chance of being exposed and spreading the virus.
Dr. Reidhead, the Indian Health Service Area Director, described the vaccine becoming more widely accepted as the rollout continues.
The doctor cited extensive trials in the development of the PFizer and Moderna vaccines, and called them absolutely safe and 95% effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s very important to get the vaccine,” said Jason Jackson, a resident of District 6. “I was thinking about my family and doing what I can to protect them,” said Jackson.
GRHC continues to offer vaccinations through appointments with Huhukam Memorial Hospital and Komatke Health Center. During the month of March, Community members can also walk-in at the District 3 Boys & Girls Club in Sacaton or the District 6 Komatke Boys & Girls Club weekdays between 9 am and 3 pm.