Health & Education

Tribal vaccination effort reaches the booster stage

03.03.2021 Dean Rhodes Health & Wellness


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

The Grand Ronde Tribe’s effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to the membership and community has reached the booster stage, Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe said during a Wednesday, March 3, Facebook Live event.

“Being able to have the vaccine and get it out is a proactive approach for us, which is something we have not been able to do since the beginning of the pandemic” Rowe said. “It feels good to finally be in that spot.”

While Rowe was speaking, people who had received their first dose of the two-dose Moderna vaccine were returning to the Tribal gym to receive a booster. The first shots were given Feb. 3-4 to more than 1,600 people. Previously, she added, about a 1,000 second doses had already been given.

“We’re really excited to get people to that next level and then the immunity that comes with it,” Rowe said.

Rowe said the Tribe’s Health & Wellness Center has distributed almost 5,800 vaccine doses since the end of December and about 3,200 of those have gone to Elders 55 and older. She added that approximately 800 Elders have received their second-dose booster.

The Moderna vaccine is estimated to have an effectiveness rate in preventing COVID-19 in the 95 percent range.

Rowe said the Tribal clinic is still conducting COVID-19 testing. So far, the clinic has tested 1,833 people with 69 positives for a 3.7 percent positivity rate. There are currently seven active COVID-19 cases that the clinic is tracking.

“When you compare us to other communities and certainly other Tribal communities, we’ve been able to really get our arms around it and stop prolific spreads so that we don’t end up with any mass exposures,” she said.

In response to question, Rowe said she was unsure if the Tribe will receive any of the newly approved single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine that was recently approved by the federal government for emergency distribution.

The Facebook Live event was the 16th held since the Tribal government shut down in mid-March 2020 because of the pandemic. Approximately 140 people logged on to watch the event, which was interrupted by computer issues for about five minutes.

In addition to Rowe, General Manager David Fullerton said the Tribal government is in the process of going from phase two to phase three of its re-opening plan, meaning more staff will return to work with less work-from-home situations. However, guests still will be discouraged from visiting Tribal offices without making an appointment first.

“Hopefully with increased vaccines and continued rapid testing, we will be able to move back to allowing guests on campus to receive services,” Fullerton said.

Tribal Vice Chair Chris Mercier announced that the new Tribal Loan Program will begin on Monday, March 8, but he encouraged Tribal members to hold off on calling about it because Finance Department employees are working on the March per capita distribution.

The program will allow Tribal members to borrow up a $1,000 from the Tribe and have two years to pay it back.