The percentage of Native Americans receiving the COVID-19 vaccination is very high.

We spoke with a healthcare worker about why the turnout has been so big.

“Early on in the pandemic, we did see our middle-aged to elderly tribal members contracting the virus and being infected more severely with long periods of hospital stays in ICU, and unfortunately we lost quite a few of our elderly,” said Emily Sitting Bear, Emergency Operations Center Director.

Sitting Bear said tribal members wanted to protect loved ones by preventing the spread any further.

“We’re taught to put the safety and well-being of the elderly, then children first. We saw adults from any age all the way up to our elderly, that was their big motivator for getting the vaccine,” Sitting Bear said.

Sitting Bear also said that Native Americans are predisposed to other medical conditions which increases the risk for severe COVID-19 complications.

“Across North Dakota, community exposure and household contact exposure has been the leaders of infection rates,” Sitting Bear said.

“We did have 18 deaths from the COVID-19 virus and of those 18, 12 of them were over 60 years old. 66% of those that we lost were elders,” Sitting Bear said.

This is why now, Native Americans are having a high turnout in numbers. 6,242 vaccinations have been reported. A small portion of the numbers consists of unregistered tribal members and other ethnic groups.

“Majority of our community lives in multi-generational households,” Sitting Bear said.

The Elbowoods Memorial Health Center is where most shots have been administered in New Town.

One of the youngest members of the tribe to die from COVID-19 was just 17 years old.