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Navajo Nation leading the way in COVID-19 vaccine efforts

After being the epicenter of the virus last May, the Navajo Nation could be the first to reach herd immunity.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — First Lady Dr. Jill Biden's visit to the Navajo Nation was a celebration of the commitment between the White House and Native communities. 

It also marked a celebration of the territory's COVID-19 vaccination efforts. 

"We as leaders of the Navajo Nation listened to our public health experts," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez explained in his address during the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden's visit to Window Rock on Thursday. 

Last May, the largest Native American reservation in the country was the epicenter of the pandemic. But now, the Nation is leading the way in vaccinations with 50% of adults fully vaccinated. 

"With the Biden-Harris administration, we've received much needed support through the Indian Health Service. And we are proud to report that close to 95,000 residents have been fully vaccinated," said Nez. 

More than 1,200 of its people died of coronavirus complications, however reported no COVID-19 related deaths for the 11th time in the past 12 days.  

"Our Navajo people have done a wonderful job adhering to the public health orders put forth by our health care experts and our first responders," said Nez. 

On Friday, Dr. Biden visited front-line warriors at Tséhootsooí Medical Center in Ft. Defiance, Arizona. 

The Medical Center has administered more than 19,000 doses. 

"People knew we had to do what we needed to do so that we could protect our people," said Dr. Sandy Adkins, Chief Executive Officer for Ft. Defiance Indian Hospital. 

"The Navajo people understand oral history and remember the 1918 flu, they know the devastating impact of the virus," said Adkins.  

Early on President Nez and Tribal leaders implemented weekend curfews, lockdowns and strict adherence to safety guidelines. 

“Everybody is stepping up for their vaccine. Family and friends are telling each other to go to this vaccine event and get vaccinated and we are helping each other out of the hole we all fell in at the same time,” said Dr. Naomi Young, Family Medical Physician Tséhootsooí Medical Center.  

Navajo Nation prepares to transition to “Yellow Status” on Monday.

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