Reservation Health Clinic Tackles COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Feb 4, 2021

Elder Sally Arnel receiving COVID-19 vaccination
Credit Jenni Wildcat

Since December, Wind River Cares has been distributing the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Distribution is now happening at Great Plains Hall in Arapaho to allow for social distancing while the health care workers administer the vaccines.

Lisa Yawakia is the communications specialist at Wind River Cares and says the clinic is now distributing the vaccine to any federally-recognized tribal member. Yawakia said that the priority list started with medical staff and then moved to elders.

"Any tribal members who have any underlying health conditions and then after that are enrolled tribal members that worked for the Northern Arapaho tribe," Yawakia said.

While there are fewer cases of COVID-19 being reported on the Wind River Reservation since the vaccine's release, Yawakia said that it is unclear if that means the vaccine is working to keep individuals out of the hospital or if people are not getting tested.

Indian Health Services in Billings helps truck the vaccines in for both the Montana and Wyoming Native communities.

Elder Mary Ann Duran getting COVID-19 vaccine
Credit Ann Duran

Yawakia said, since December, the clinic has been busy making sure individuals get their first and second doses of the vaccine.

"We have given out about 1,600 vaccinations. And we still are scheduling those individuals second doses and will continue to do that as long as the vaccine is distributed through Indian Health Services," Yawakia said.

The combined population of enrolled tribal members of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes is about 15,000.

Yawakia encourages the public to make an appointment. She said people can check Wind River Cares' social media for impromptu openings. The clinic administers vaccines to 10 individuals at a time to ensure efficient use of the product.

Yawakia reminded the public to continue to socially distance and wash their hands.