With Western New York possibly facing a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seneca Nation is reaching out to neighboring school districts near its Cattaraugus and Allegany territories to help make vaccines accessible for eligible students and staff.
The Nation recently notified district leaders at Gowanda, Silver Creek, Lake Shore and Salamanca that eligible students and staff can make vaccine appointments with the Seneca Nation Health System on target dates over the next two weeks.
“The recent rise in cases in the region, particularly among people 19 and younger, makes the urgency for everyone to get a COVID vaccine even greater,” said Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels. “Keeping our children and are schools safe has to be a priority, and we know that vaccine access in rural communities has been a challenge. The Seneca Nation is proud to work with our school district partners to do what we can to help get the vaccine to as many people in our community as possible.”
In Salamanca, the Seneca Nation Health System is scheduling appointments for the Pfizer vaccine during the week of April 19, and appointments for the Moderna vaccine during the week of April 26.
“The Salamanca City Central School District is grateful for the vibrant partnership with the Seneca Nation and the Seneca Nation Health System,” said Superintendent Robert Breidenstein. “Throughout the course of the pandemic, the Seneca Nation has collaborated with the distinct to ensure the safety of our students and community. Allowing Salamanca City Central School District staff and students to have access to the COVID vaccines at the Seneca Nation Health System demonstrates the strength of our relationship and the support of our community. We are safer today because of our mutual commitment to public safety.”
For eligible students and staff in the Gowanda, Silver Creek and Lake Shore districts, the Seneca Nation Health System in Irving is scheduling appointments for the Pfizer vaccine on select during the week of April 19, and appointments for the Moderna vaccine on during the week of April 16 and the week of May 3.
“Strong partnerships like the one our district enjoys with the Seneca Nation are paramount in building strong, healthy schools and communities. This has taken on added importance throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Anderson, Gowanda Central School District Superintendent. “We are grateful to the Seneca Nation for making this outreach and helping us protect our community’s health and well-being.”
“Seneca students are an important part of our school community, and we have always enjoyed a strong working relationship with the Seneca Nation,” said Lake Shore Superintendent Dr. Charles Galluzzo. “Having the opportunity for our Lake Shore students and staff to access the COVID vaccine so nearby is a tremendous benefit. This outreach is another important step in helping to protect our students, our staff and our entire district community.”
“Silver Creek Central School continues to work and partner with the Seneca Nation of Indians on promoting vaccinations,” added Silver Creek Superintendent Todd Crandall. “We strongly urge all eligible individuals to be vaccinated. We believe that vaccination is an essential element to the fight against the coronavirus for our students, staff and community.”
Native American communities have been among the most impacted by the coronavirus. Federal statistics show that the COVID-related death rate among American Indian and Alaska Native people is nearly twice that of white people. The Seneca Nation Health System began receiving vaccine doses for Nation members from the federal Indian Health Services in January. To date, the Health System has administered nearly 3,200 primary doses on the Nation’s territories and more than 2,300 Nation members have been fully vaccinated.
The schools partnership is the latest effort by the Nation to help make the vaccine accessible to residents in neighboring communities. Last month, the Nation worked with Cattaraugus County officials to conduct a series of primary and second dose vaccine clinics for County residents at the Seneca Allegany Events Center inside Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino. In all, approximately 1,500 Cattaraugus County residents were fully vaccinated at the Seneca Allegany clinics.
“The battle against COVID-19 doesn’t begin or end at the borders of our Nation,” President Pagels said. “We are one community, and we can only win this together. Helping our neighbors who live, work and go to school alongside us is part of that effort. We continue to urge everyone to make a vaccine appointment as soon as they are eligible and able to do so.”