Story at a glance
- Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, dying at higher rates than other populations.
- Now, Native Americans have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the United States.
- After successfully vaccinating much of their own population, the Indian Health Service has even begun offering doses to visitors.
With close to 40 percent of their population fully vaccinated, Native Americans have the highest vaccination rate in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is tracking vaccination rates among various communities.
Asian Americans follow closely behind with 35 percent of the population fully vaccinated, followed by white Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Hispanic and Black Americans lag behind with less than one-third of their populations fully vaccinated.
Where Native Americans have the highest lead, however, is the nearly half, or 45 percent, of the population that has received at least one dose of the vaccine. The next closest — Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders — remain at just one-third of their population that has received at least one dose of the vaccine. As the delta variant spreads across the United States, COVID-19 cases are surging in nearly half of U.S. states, particularly those where the vaccination rate remains low.
Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, especially on reservations, where access to basic resources, including food and water, can be limited and much of the economy is reliant on tourism. Despite historically rooted mistrust in the medical community, many Indigenous communities responded to the pandemic by going into strict lockdowns and maintaining social distancing measures. And while the vaccine rollout faltered in other parts of the country, tribes were quick to get their elders vaccinated, protecting valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge among a vulnerable population.
“[The] language you hear throughout Indian country is ‘be a good relative,’” Kerry Hawk Lessard, the executive director of Baltimore and Boston-based Urban Indian Health program Native American LifeLines, told PBS. “Do this for the grandmas, do this for the ceremony, do this for the language, because our people are precious....We already lost a lot. We can’t afford to lose more.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW