Navajo Nation will receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine early this week

The Navajo Nation announced on Saturday that it will receive its first doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine early this week.

The nation said in a statement that it is expecting its first shipments on Monday and Tuesday. The doses will be administered to health care workers and those in long-term assisted living facilities.

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The shipments will be transported to Gallup Indian Medical Center, Chinle IHS and Northern Navajo Medical Center, the nation said. Doses will then be sent to other locations that are able to store the vaccine at “deep frozen temperature.”  

The Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine for emergency use on Friday, and states are expected to receive their first doses next week.  The vaccine will need to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, or minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

The announcement comes as the Navajo Nation experiences a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Last week, the nation extended its stay-at-home order to Dec. 28 after experiencing a surge in cases that it attributed to family gatherings and off-reservation travel. The order was first imposed Nov. 13, and was scheduled to end Dec. 6.

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The nation is currently under a 57-hour lockdown running from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, under which businesses are closed. All residents have to remain home, with the exception of essential workers.

“Right now, our hospitals and health care workers are overwhelmed due to the the high level of new COVID-19 cases,” Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said in the statement. “If we stay home more, we help to isolate the virus and reduce the spread of the virus.”

The Navajo Department of Health reported 203 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing its cumulative total to 19,420. The nation has seen 719 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began.