Tribal Members and community members alike were offered the opportunity to get vaccinated, while remaining in their vehicles the entire time, at a free drive-thru clinic hosted by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Saturday, May 15.
NHBP Tribal Member Kathie Grothaus, who works as a Nurse and Clinical Applications Coordinator at the Pine Creek Health Facility, has been fighting on the frontlines against COVID-19 since the very beginning, and was one of many dedicated healthcare workers to administer vaccines at the event.
“This is really my honor to be able to give out the vaccination,” Grothaus said. “It has been so cool to be one of the people who is helping to get rid of COVID. It is always my thought to help others, so that’s what I take a lot of pride in.”
Spearheaded by the Tribe, in collaboration with the Village of Athens and the Athens Township Fire Department, the drive-thru vaccine clinic administered vaccines to 28 people.
“Though it wasn’t the turn-out we hoped for, every vaccine counts,” Grothaus said. “About a third of America is vaccinated, and about 20% of America has had COVID – probably more because we don’t know every COVID case – but ultimately, we’re looking for 75% vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.”
From 9 a.m. to noon, community members ages 18 and older received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine from the comfort of their own cars. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine will be offered Saturday, June 12, at the same location. The clinic drew the young and elderly, with the oldest person to participate at 99 years old.
“It’s so important that we continue working with the local community and government, because for a long time there has been bad blood,” Grothaus said. “It’s kind of an inherited trait for all of us, and since the government got the vaccine going, a lot of people are hesitant about it. But we live in bigger groups and are around more people all the time, because that’s just our culture, to be together, so we need to protect each other.”
“It’s really hard not to have three or four generations in a household for some of these families. You’ve got all different risk factors living in the same house, so if COVID comes in you never know who’s going to get the sickest. Don’t let your age affect if you get the vaccine or not.”
THE STATE OF COVID-19 IN MICHIGAN
As of Thursday, 58.1% of Michigan residents ages 16 and up have received their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while at least 52.9% were fully vaccinated.
As a result – and in alignment with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance on face coverings – the state of Michigan recently lifted mask mandates for fully vaccinated individuals, and is beginning to relax COVID-19 restrictions. For example, workers may return for in-person work May 24 and the broad indoor mask mandate is set to expire July 1.
In further efforts to take a step toward normalcy, restrictions will be phased out as Michigan reaches vaccine benchmarks at 60%, 65% and 70%.
- Two weeks after the state hits 60% of its population with an initial dose, limitations on gyms, stadiums, banquet halls, and funeral homes will ease and the 11 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants will drop.
- After 65% is reached, all indoor capacity limits will be lifted and restrictions on residential social gatherings will be relaxed.
- At 70%, the state will lift the epidemic order on gatherings and face masks and “no longer employ broad mitigation measures unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants,” according to a press release.
However, Grothaus cautioned that declaring victory against COVID-19 is premature and urges others to continue wearing a mask if fully vaccinated due to the remaining unknowns surrounding variants.
“We are kind of at a precipice right now,” she said. “There’s fewer people coming in to get vaccinated and it’s harder to get people to come in. Everything may look like it’s going down here, but our numbers are still really high. It’s kind of dangerous to think that we’re at a turning point, because there are variants that are just spreading like wildfire.”
Though over eight million doses of the vaccine have been administered in total, the number of first doses administered each week in Michigan has been rapidly falling since April 10, when about 396,000 first doses were administered. In the week of May 16, only about 30,000 first doses were administered — an alarming 92% decline, state data shows.
“I know a lot of people are hesitant to get vaccinated since the issue with Johnson & Johnson and blood clots came up, but you’re actually more likely to get blood clots from the disease itself than the vaccine,” Grothaus said. “If you’re able to get a vaccine, don’t be picky about it, get vaccinated and stay safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
GET VACCINATED WITH NHBP
For the Native community in particular, vaccination is of even more importance as they suffer the highest mortality rate among any U.S. minority group due to the pandemic. While there could be several reasons for this, Native Americans tend to suffer from many underlying conditions, such as diabetes and heart conditions, which is part of what makes COVID-19 so deadly.
“We don’t always know our underlying conditions yet,” Grothaus said. “And when you get COVID-19 with these conditions, COVID takes advantage of all that.”
To protect themselves and others, NHBP Tribal Members have traveled from Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri – all over the country – to receive their vaccine through the Tribe.
“It’s in our nature to care for others, and it’s part of our Seven Grandfather Teachings,” Grothaus said. “We always want to take care of our Elders, be brave, face everything head-on and try to make things better. And it’s not just for us, it’s for everyone.”
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing the disease, especially severe illness and death, and will reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others. Vaccines do not cause COVID-19 – rather, they teach your body to have an immune response to protect you from the virus. NHBP encourages you to choose to protect yourselves, your family, and our Community by getting vaccinated as soon as you can.
“Don’t dissuade others from getting vaccinated,” Grothaus said. “It’s important for us to set a good example for our children, so that when it’s their time to get vaccinated, they will not hesitate and then we can reach herd immunity. It’s important to remember that the children’s population is not vaccinated at all, and even though they don’t seem to get as sick, they do get sick, and they do spread it.”
Do your part, protect our Elders and future generations by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. To get your COVID-19 vaccine, call the NHBP Vaccine Hotline at 269.704.8504.