PHOENIX (AP) — The Indian Health Service announced Thursday that all tribal members covered by the federal agency will be offered a vaccine at every appointment, if required, as part of a new immunization strategy.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, American Indians and Alaska Natives have had some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates across the country.
But indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, and IHS officials recently noticed that fewer patients were receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Monkeypox is now an additional health issue.
System patients are also starting to fall behind on more common vaccinations, such as shots for childhood illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella, as well as shingles shots for the elderly.
“As time goes by, we are seeing some fatigue from COVID, and we feel like we’re not where we need to be,” IHS chief medical officer Dr. Loretta Christensen said in a brief interview. before posting the ad. “With our vulnerable population, it is essential to re-energize our staff to ensure everyone gets the vaccines they need.”
Christensen said in a published announcement that she has directed all system care sites “to respond to this important call to action to increase immunization coverage and protect against vaccine-preventable diseases in tribal communities. “.
“Each patient at each encounter will be offered all recommended vaccines, if applicable.” she wrote. “IHS will exempt encounters in which a vaccine would not be appropriate, such as when a person has moderate or severe acute illness.”
Christensen told agency staff in a supplemental message that she encourages everyone to get their flu shots and up-to-date COVID-19 as winter approaches.
“We can work together to protect our friends, loved ones, elders and communities as we gather across the country for the holiday season,” she said.
The Indian Health Service is the federally recognized health care system for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States.