Navajo Nation officials confirmed that the Native American sovereign will participate in the Phase 2/3 Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine trial. The reservation experiences some of the worst poverty and social determinant of health-related adverse conditions, leading to 9,952 confirmed cases and 530 deaths due to SARS-CoV-2, reports from the Department of Health there. However, it is expected that the numbers are considerably more due to a lack of testing. The testing will be voluntary and the hope is that by bringing together tribal officials, leaders and health department workers that sufficient trust can be developed to offer not only the vaccine but also standard of care for this vast territory in the Southwestern United States covering 27,413 miles and just under 200,000 inhabitants.
The size of some countries, this large territory within the United States touches four states including Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. The governance is rooted in the tribal-based oral history. A tribal system of a people and culture known as the Diné underlies the culture and society and extends to what is called “to walk in beauty.” The nation joined the United States by treaty of 1968. The concept and nature of Navajo governance continues to evolve among various debates as it incorporates the systems and economies of the “western world.”
Department of Health
The Navajo Nation’s Department of Health serves the Navajo people. This agency has 14 separate programs funded by various agencies. Headquartered in Window Rock, the Navajo Department of Health, according to its website, serves approximately 300,000 members of the Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the United States. The Department of Health delivers a variety of health services in this vast territory, from nutrition, aging, substance abuse, outreach and emergency medical services and works in close partnership with state, federal and local partners.
The Department of Health maintains a COVID-19 tracker.
The study will be led by the John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and will be the first coronavirus vaccine study conducted on the Navajo Nation. President Jonathan Nez commented recently, “Several COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials are making progress across the U.S. and its important that the Navajo people have an opportunity to participate in a Phase 3 trial.” The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health maintains five offices on the Navajo Nation. The head of infectious disease is Dr. Laura Hammitt.