The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has begun rolling out a COVID-19 vaccination program after receiving 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine last week. Another 100 doses arrived earlier this week.
The tribe’s emergency management director, Nelson Andrews Jr., said on Wednesday, January 6, that the program will continue to ramp up in the coming months as the tribe works in coordination with the federal government to secure doses of the vaccine for tribal members.
“It’s a glimmer of hope,” Mr. Andrews said. “I would like to encourage all Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal members to, when the vaccine is available, take advantage of the opportunity to make sure that our tribal community remains safe from this deadly virus.”
Indian Health Services personnel, essential tribal government personnel and tribal elders age 65 and older are first in line to receive the vaccine, Mr. Andrews said.
A second phase of vaccinations will likely start with tribal members who are first responders working in the general public before moving on to all Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal citizens living in or near Barnstable County, he said.
A third phase, which could be underway by late February or early March, will likely include spouses and immediate household members of tribal members, Mr. Andrews said.
As an essential staff member, Mr. Andrews said, he has received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine. For the vaccine to be effective he will have to get another dose after 30 days.
“It was a harmless approach, nothing to be worried about, no side effects at all,” he said.
While receiving the vaccine does not mean that tribal members can stop wearing masks or social distancing, Mr. Andrews said he is hopeful the vaccine will protect at-risk tribal members and will allow the tribe to improve services for its citizens.
“Once we do get a portion of our population vaccinated, we will be able to stand strong together as our ancestors have in the past and stand together as a tribal nation,” he said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that vaccinated individuals continue to wear masks and avoid close contact until more information about the protection the vaccine provides under real-life conditions is available.
Current guidelines from the CDC say that factors such as how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will affect decisions about when mask wearing and social distancing can end.
Tribal council member Brian Weeden received the vaccine on December 28 in an effort to demonstrate to tribal members that the vaccine is safe.
“It was nerve-wracking; I don’t really like needles,” he said. “I put all those things aside because for me it is more about leading by example.”
Mr. Weeden said that as more tribal employees and citizens get vaccinated, he is hopeful that the tribe’s government center can reopen so tribal members can come in and receive the services they need.
In a video livestreamed to Facebook on December 28, the left sleeve of Mr. Weeden’s gray T-shirt is rolled up to expose his shoulder as a healthcare professional prepares to apply his first dose of the vaccine.
“I am here today to take this vaccination for the tribe and the people,” Mr. Weeden said in the video. “We have to do all our parts to protect the tribe and our community, and I hope that you will do the same.”
As the healthcare professional applied the vaccine, Mr. Weeden gave a thumbs up.
He thanked frontline workers, the tribe’s Indian Health Services and the Mashpee Service Unit.