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News Release

Urban Indian Health Institute

In a recent op-ed published in Indian Country Today, Dr. Bruce Davidson advised American Indians and Alaska Natives to avoid receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. 

Following is a statement from public health professionals Abigail Echo-Hawk and Dr. Mary Owen:

“As public health professionals who have a combined 40 years of experience working with and caring for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people, we are disappointed and concerned by claims by Dr. Bruce Davidson, advising AI/AN people to avoid the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

We believe his statements will lead to the deaths of American Indian and Alaska Native people by increasing hesitancy toward a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Davidson’s narrow-minded claims—and irresponsible and reckless interpretation of data—further fuels vaccine distrust in Native communities. And this comes at a time when AI/AN people are dying of COVID-19 at the highest rates in the country, and when rapid vaccination of our community members is paramount to saving lives.

During this time, we shouldn’t have to question the words of doctors, but in this case, we must. Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines has been—and continues to be—dangerous and puts our elders and communities at risk. AI/AN communities need to have access to accurate information from trusted sources in order to make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccines.

Indian Country has been leaders in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. We are starting to see some reservations and villages over 50% vaccinated, while cities look to urban Indian health programs for solutions. We are getting closer and closer to the finish line, but it will be claims like Dr. Davidson’s that will slow us down from crossing it.

Like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, effective, and necessary if Indian Country is going to win the fight against COVID-19.”

About Abigail Echo-Hawk

Abigail Echo-Hawk is Pawnee and the vice-president of the Seattle Indian Health Board and director of the Urban Indian Health Institute. She has 20 years of experience working in public health within American Indian and Alaska Native communities. She is also the co-author of a report with the first ever national data regarding American Indian and Alaska Native peoples’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs toward COVID-19 vaccines.

About Mary Owen, MD

Dr. Mary Owen, a Tlingit physician, is the president of the Association of American Indian Physicians, director for the Center of American Indian and Minority Health, and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She has 20 years of experience providing care for American Indian and Alaska Native patients. 

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