HOLLYWOOD — The rate of positive Covid-19 cases and deaths from the virus have both decreased in Florida and across much of the country in recent weeks. However, health officials warn that while there are reasons for optimism, the pandemic isn’t over and the threat is still real.
The positive developments have taken place in the midst of increased vaccinations across the country and internationally, including among Tribal Nations.
For the Seminole Tribe, the number of tribal members and tribal employees receiving the Covid-19 vaccination has risen since the effort was launched in late December.
The tribe’s Health and Human Services (HHS) department said that as of March 24, tribal members and those who live in the tribal community had received 831 first dose shots and 682 second dose shots.
The tribe has been administering the two-shot Moderna vaccine.
Employees working for the tribe had received 631 first dose shots and 504 second dose shots.
The tribe also recently expanded 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.
Seminole Fire Rescue personnel have been administering the shots to those who are eligible and prescreened at the fire station in Hollywood in a drive-thru format.
Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley, the executive director of HHS, said the tribe was in the process of acquiring doses of the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well.
“We are continuing to vaccinate with the help of Public Safety. The numbers [of positive Covid-19 tests] are going down within the tribe,” she said.
HHS and Public Safety staff have been carrying out the tribe’s vaccine strategy for more than three months through a phased eligibility process. Eligibility requirements have opened up over that time to include employees of the tribe who are not tribal members and now Seminole Gaming employees.
Those that are eligible and wish to receive the vaccine are placed on a waiting list. Staff from HHS and Public Safety then makes contact to schedule an appointment for the first shot and send a notification when the second shot is due. Two weeks after the second shot is administered, the vaccine becomes 94.5% effective against the virus.
While the virus has disproportionately affected Native Americans, in many cases tribal vaccination rates have outpaced those of the general population.
The Indian Health Service recently reported it surpassed its goal to administer 400,000 vaccines across Indian Country. The Seminole Tribe has thus far received its vaccines from IHS and has avoided many of the snags and issues that state-run vaccine distribution has experienced.
For example, as many tribes have opened up vaccine eligibility to anyone over 18 years of age, the state of Florida has only recently made those who are 50 years and older eligible to get in line for an appointment.
Those under 18 years of age are currently not eligible to receive any Covid-19 vaccine, although trials are underway.
Tribal members and employees can call the HHS hotline at (833) 786-3458 for more information about the vaccine.