Earlier in the pandemic, health officials were worried Indigenous populations would be hesitant to get a COVID vaccine. Now, they’re among the most vaccinated populations in the country. That's according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Michigan, community nurses say there was already a lot of trust in tribal health centers that administer the shots.
Lack of transportation remains a barrier for some tribal members to get appointments.
Nurses are scheduling more rural clinics, and recently acquired mobile medical units that will help vaccinate the homebound.
Whitney Gravelle is the Bay Mills Indian Community Tribal Chairperson. She says community members wanted to get vaccinated to protect children and elders.
“Because of their significance within our communities and because they are the most vulnerable populations in the COVID-19 pandemic… our community really turned out and turned out strong.”
Bay Mills and a nearby tribe have distributed more than 18,000 vaccines across the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Gravelle says more than 75% of tribal employees have gotten at least one dose.
Gravelle says many were motivated after losing valued community members to the virus.
“We’re still healing from that hurt even now. And to be able to get a vaccine and protect people… that’s really why we turned out.”