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Gila River Indian Community members receive COVID-19 vaccine with help from Arizona National Guard

Diana Swiga
Posted at 5:54 PM, Feb 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-21 19:54:52-05

With the help of the Arizona National Guard, hundreds of Gila River Indian Community members were treated to the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday.

At Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, more than 600 hundred members of the Gila River Indian Community drove thru a vaccination site specifically designed for the community.

"We’ve been playing defense this past year. The ability to vaccine our own tribal members, we can play offense as well," said Stephen Lewis Governor of Gila River Indian Reservation. "I see it as a historic event to save lives. Every shot we administer saves lives."

The vaccine site was a collaboration between the Gila River Indian Community and the Arizona National Guard. Community members received their first doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine. Any Gila River Indian Community Member 18 years and older and their family were eligible to receive the vaccine.

"To see them go through the line it was very heartwarming to see them care about their health," said Monica Antone, Lieutenant Governor for the Gila River Indian Community. "I’m saving your life, you’re saving my life."

Native Americans have been one of the communities hit the hardest by COVID-19. The Gilia River Indian Reservation has had 6,247 positive COVID-19 cases and 66 deaths. According to the CDC, COVID-19 rates for Native Americans are 3.5 times higher than for white people. Nearly 10% of all Navajo Nation citizens have contracted COVID-19.

The Arizona National Guard handled the logistical operations of the event, taking care of everything from directing traffic to administering the vaccine itself. The guard didn't hesitate to help, saying the two communities have a long history.

"We have a common history with the Gila River Indian Community," said Tom Leeper, Task Force Medical Commander for the Arizona National Guard. "They were members of the first national guard that got stood up in Arizona in the mid-1800s."

The Arizona National Guard hopes to also assist the community when it needs its second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.