5 important COVID-19 vaccine updates for Indigenous peoples of America

Last updated: Jun 7, 2021
Here are five updates for those in Indigenous peoples of America about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Note: Some Indigenous peoples of America may prefer the term “Native American.” Some may prefer “American Indian.” And some may identify as “Native Alaskan.” The term “Native American” will be used here to include all these groups, with the acknowledgment that some Indigenous peoples of America might identify differently.


As of April, 32% of Native Americans have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Indian Health Service (HIS), Tribal Health programs, Urban Indian Organizations and Tribal leaders played a big part. However, as more people in the U.S. get the vaccine, some may still be nervous. Worries about inequities in care and treatment or concerns about the diversity of the COVID-19 clinical trials may be factors.

Below is the latest information about the vaccine and more from experts who support the needs of Native American communities.

1. Many Native American advocates recommend the vaccine

The Association of American Indian Physicians and the National Indian Health Board agree that the vaccines are safe. These groups focus on and support Native American physicians and their patients. They are also working to help those living on Tribal lands get vaccinated.

Local groups, like The Santa Ynez Tribal Health Clinic, are helping with the vaccine, too. Local Tribal health programs and Tribal leadership can also answer questions.

2. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks

While some people have concerns about vaccine side effects, COVID-19 can cause long-term and fatal results. The risk of side effects from the vaccine is lower than the dangers of the virus itself.

3. The vaccines lower risk of sickness and death from Covid-19

Current data shows that the vaccines protect against the virus. The Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines are 85% to 95% effective.

The vaccines are key for helping to end the pandemic. They help keep people from getting sick, and they lessen the severity of COVID-19. This can reduce the risk of long-term issues, hospital stays, or death.

Diabetes, along with obesity and heart disease, add to the seriousness of COVID-19. Native Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes than non-Native White Americans. So the vaccine is very important for Indigenous communities.

4. Getting vaccinated means being able to do more activities

The CDC says that vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people without masks – as long as they are not or don’t live with someone who is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Vaccinated people should still wear masks around unvaccinated people or those at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They should also still wear a mask in public. This is because scientists are still learning how well the vaccines can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

5. Getting vaccinated helps everyone

The sooner everyone gets the vaccine, the sooner everyone can see friends and family safely. With each day that passes without getting vaccinated, there is more risk of getting COVID-19. Also, it will take us longer to reach herd immunity.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free and available to anyone 12 and older. This is true even for non-U.S. citizens or people without insurance. If you need assistance getting the vaccine, California is working to make it easier. The state is helping with rides, mobile clinics and more.

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