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HHS: Demand for vaccine slows

HOLLYWOOD — As the Seminole Tribe’s Covid-19 vaccination program enters its fifth month officials say there aren’t as many people asking for the shots.

Part of the reason is due to the success of the vaccine strategy’s rollout and the hundreds who have already received the shot. The tribe’s Health and Human Services (HHS) department and Public Safety staff have carried out the vaccine program through a phased eligibility process. The outreach and education to tribal members and the tribal community has been ongoing.

But Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley, the executive director of HHS, said many have still not been vaccinated.

“The number of vaccines being requested has significantly declined,” she said. “The community needs to remember that the vaccine is in place to reduce mortality and hospitalization.”

As of late April, about 813 tribal members and those who live in tribal communities had received both doses of the vaccine. About 956 had received one dose. Among tribal employees, about 626 had received both doses and 755 had received one dose. The tribe has three vaccines available – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

In March, the tribe opened vaccine eligibility to employees at all Seminole Gaming venues in Florida, which include Seminole Hard Rock properties in Hollywood and Tampa. The Seminole Tribe is the parent entity of Hard Rock International.

At press time, Kiswani-Barley said she didn’t have exact vaccine numbers for those employees, but said more than 1,000 had received at least one dose.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 testing is still in place across the tribe and positive cases have recently increased.

“Since we have entered the second phase of increased service delivery we have seen a spike in the number of positive cases within the tribe,” Kiswani-Barley said.

After seeing declines, she said from April 5th to April 20th, for example, the tribe had seen 40 new cases.

“Strict Covid-19 precautions need to be maintained at all times. Additionally, if there’s any contact with a Covid-19 positive person or someone exhibits any Covid-19-like symptoms, they should report to the doctor. If you’re an employee, do not report to work,” she said.

In short, Kiswani-Barley is encouraging those who are eligible to get the vaccine and for everyone to continue to follow virus guidelines like wearing a mask and social distancing.

The tribe is giving the vaccine to those 16 years and older, following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that were set April 19. It had previously been open to those 18 and up.

The tribal community and employees can call the HHS hotline at (833) 786-3458 for vaccine and Covid-19 testing information.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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