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Pandemic issues: Vaccines and funding

Director fo the Tribal Health Research Office at the National Institutes of Health Dave Wilson talks about vaccine safety concerns in tribal communities, plus national correspondent Dalton Walker discusses the latest on CARES Act spending

The Director of the Tribal Health Research Office at the National Institutes of Health Dave Wilson, PhD, is on the newscast discussing the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. He’s Navajo and recently moderated a panel discussion with Dr. Anthony Fauci and tribal leaders to address vaccine concerns.

Indian Country Today national correspondent Dalton Walker joins the newscast to talk about his latest story, "Deadline looms for tribes’ CARES Act spending." He says some tribes are doing better than others at allocating the funds.

Here are some comments from today’s newscast:

Dave Wilson:

“Throughout this entire process of vaccine development and the clinical trial process, there have been absolutely no steps that have been skipped or bypassed, thereby impacting the safety of these trials.”

“So if you think about this, an MRNA vaccine doesn't contain the virus itself, you can think of it as an email that is sent to your immune system. That shows the virus that shows our immune systems, what the virus looks like, how to kill it, and then, just like a Snapchat message, it goes away. And that's very similar to how these MRNA vaccines work. A transcript is injected into your muscles. Our bodies are able to read that transcript. Our bodies synthesize that spike protein, which is just the outermost part of that virus that comes in contact with our cells. And then our bodies are able to produce antibodies that recognize that spike protein. So when a virus comes into our cells, our antibodies will bind that spike protein, some people refer to it as landing gear and that inhibits its ability to invade or infect our cells.”

“Our goal is to really communicate the clinical trial process and what the makeup of these vaccines are and the history of these vaccines and how they actually work.”

“There's a lot of fear. There's a lot of misinformation that's out there. Our goal is not to persuade any tribal nations, but it's to provide them with the most amount of accurate and clear communication so that our communities can exercise their tribal sovereignty and make that decision whether they want to have clinical trials available to their community members. And so that's what we've really been focused on, but at the NIH, we've also been thinking about what are some of the other issues that are coming down the road? You know, we've been in-home, been sequestering at home quite a bit, and with that comes health, mental health issues. And so we've been thinking about how are we going to be able to address this? What are some of the interventions that could potentially be used in tribal communities to help alleviate some of those, some of that strain that our communities are feeling?”

Dalton Walker:

“When we learned that it passed in March, money was basically allocated right away, but tribes didn't start receiving their share of the $8 billion until may because of a legal dispute with Alaska Native Corporations. So they were on the clock in March, but unfairly, they didn’t get a chance to get in the game until May.”

“Some are doing better than others regarding spending it and allocating it and getting it out there. I remember when it first came off, the initial question was, was it enough money? How was it determined?”

“Part of it was the strict spending guidelines being able to allocate it efficiently. Um, so you have to remember tribal leadership was busy and then all of a sudden get this new world, this pandemic life, and we're thrown into this mix. So on top of that, tribes are trying to make sure their people are safe. People aren't doing any things they shouldn't be doing while at the same time, juggling this new lump sum of money given to them. And these guidelines are they're pretty strict when you look at them. So they had to make sure they were spending it in meeting these guidelines. And unfortunately, some tribes just weren't ready for that type of money. While some tribes were.”

“Not long after the CARES Act was approved and tribes started to get money tribal leaders advocated that we needed a longer deadline extension because realistically it didn't look like a goal that could be met.”

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Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

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