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Meskwaki Tribal Health Clinic aims to get access to vaccine to underserved populations

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 6:19 PM CDT
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TAMA, Iowa (KCRG) - About 100 people got vaccinated on Wednesday at a clinic put on by the Meskwaki Tribal Health Clinic.

Aurora Nehring and Wayne Gidaudis were two of the more than 30 people by noon who got their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Tama Civic Center. Both said they felt good after taking this first step, especially after having COVID-19 before.

“So far, I’m ok. They told me it might be some reaction being that I had COVID already,” said Gidaudis.

“When I had COVID, I had to miss out on some sports,” said Nehring.

For Nehring, only having to travel 30 minutes to get the shot was a big help.

“It was very nice, especially since the one in my hometown doesn’t do the one that I wanted. I wanted the Pfizer,” she said.

The Nurse Manager at the clinic said the goal is to get access to people that may have difficulties like those in rural places, young people, and minority populations like the Native American community. Wednesday, they also had a Spanish-speaking volunteer.

“That’s where we started is with our own community. We’re kind of seeing a drop off so that’s why we branched out. The more people we vaccinate outside the community, the safer it keeps people in the community also, so people and employees, and people that come off the settlement,” said Sara Augspurger.

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 mortality rate is higher for American Indians and Alaska Native people than for any other group - at almost two and a half times the death rate for whites and Asians. Augspurger said before the vaccine she’s seen those trends locally too.

“In November and December, we did have quite a few of cases for as small a community as we are. This is only a few thousand, and we had some pretty big numbers, like 30-40 in a week,” she said.

The vaccine has lowered those cases and death numbers nationally for Tribal communities, and there has been some hesitancy to get the vaccine.

“You do see some hesitance. It’s more of the older like the 50 to 65 age that we had a lot of hesitance with. That would be the generation that they had a lot of trouble with their healthcare system before we came along,” she added.

Iowa’s data is incomplete, but clinics like this one show the push toward prevention.

“We just want to make sure everyone gets what they deserve,” said Augspurger.

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