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As Coronavirus Vaccinations Begin, Experts Urge Native Americans To Participate

As the first shipments of coronavirus vaccines go out across the country, health officials are urging Native American communities to participate. 

But tribal communities have historic reasons to feel wary, said David Wilson, a member of the Navajo Nation and director of the National Institute of Health Tribal Health Research Office.

“There’s a great deal of mistrust when it comes to the federal government, clinical trials, and vaccines. This is a mistrust that we acknowledge and respect, " Wilson said in a  livestream video event Tuesday. 

Wilson appeared in the video call alongside the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, to emphasize to tribal communities that coronavirus vaccines are safe.

Fauci said it’s important not just for Native Americans to get vaccinated but to participate in clinical trials if given the opportunity.

“We want to be able to tell the people of the tribal nation that we have now proven that the vaccine is safe and effective in you and in your people so that you can feel comfortable in taking it," Fauci said. 

Tribal communities have been extremely hard-hit by the pandemic. In Arizona, Native Americans make up about 5% of the population but about 10% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.

→  Get The Latest News On COVID-19 In Arizona 

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.