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Officials: vaccines best way to prevent new variants

HOLLYWOOD — As the globe continues to navigate the Covid-19 Omicron variant, health officials continue to
encourage those who haven’t yet received a vaccine to do so.

“Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from Covid-19, [to] slow transmissions, and [to] reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging,” a recent statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The tribe is offering boosters and vaccines. (Image via CDC)

Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley, the Seminole Tribe’s head of Health and Human Services (HHS), said she and her staff have been handling an increase in testing and in positive cases. Because of the spike, tribal clinics returned to “essential visits only” services Dec. 27, 2021.

Vaccines and booster shots are available for tribal members and tribal employees. Those five years and older are eligible for the vaccine, while the booster shot is approved for those 16 years and older. There are eligibility restrictions.

The Tribune asked Kiswani-Barley in late January to update readers on the variant her concerns.

Are clinics still under ‘essential visits only?’

Yes, we are still. However, we will be evaluating this shortly as we have started to see a trend downwards [in positive cases].

Is vaccine hesitancy still an issue?

It is still an issue. Unfortunately, due to it being a novel vaccine, and a lot of myths circulating, this seems to be the hesitancy.

Where do things stand now?

Over the past week and a half we have started to see numbers fall, and testing fall as well. Omicron is much more contagious than Delta, but we noted milder symptoms.

What trends do you see?

We see [cases] trending down, but it is very early to ensure this is a true downward trend.

What continues to concern you?

I’m concerned about people not adhering to isolation and quarantine guidelines.

What is your overall message to tribal members?

Stay safe, come to the clinics if you have symptoms or have been exposed, consider the vaccine, wear a mask, have good hand hygiene and social distance. Self-awareness is key.

Editor’s note: The CDC has up-to-date information on Covid-19. Go to for more. Tribal members can call their
local clinic or the HHS hotline at (833) 786-3458 for more information about the Covid-19 vaccine, booster shots, antibody treatments and the flu vaccine. Tribal employees can call the hotline for vaccine information as well.

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