Luján Highlights Coordination with IHS to Vaccinate Tribal College Students and Staff in New Mexico

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, participated in a hearing examining the COVID-19 response in Native communities. Senator Luján questioned Rear Admiral Michael Toedt, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and underscored the importance of providing vaccination data disaggregated by Tribe.

Senator Luján highlighted his office’s coordination with the IHS to ensure the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe received vaccines for its students and staff after initially being left out of population estimates reported the to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Following Senator Luján’s coordination with IHS, IAIA is now among the Tribal Colleges and Universities that have been able to vaccinate on-campus students and staff.

During the hearing, Senator Luján also called attention to how the IHS has a responsibility to share relevant information with Congress to take action on connecting homes to electricity, running water, wastewater, and broadband.

Video from the hearing is available HERE.

An excerpt of Senator Luján’s remarks are available below:

Dr. Toedt, the Indian Health Service has played an instrumental role in the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just last month, you announced that IHS had reached its goal of administering over 1 million vaccines to IHS beneficiaries. That was ahead of schedule.

I am proud to note that Navajo Area and Albuquerque Area IHS regions have distributed over 358,000 vaccines as of last week, and administered over 280,000 doses, nearly one-third of the total administered across all IHS sites.

This is truly remarkable, and a testament to your hard work and partnership with Tribes, federal agencies and Congress.

As an example, I would like to highlight your quick response to an issue my office raised regarding the Institute of American Indian Arts, a Tribal College in my state.

IAIA was not included in the population estimates the IHS and states submitted to the CDC in their pre-planning. 

As a result, it was uncertain how the school would procure vaccines for its students and staff before returning to in-person learning.

I am glad to report that now IAIA is among those Tribal Colleges and Universities that have been able to vaccinate on-campus students and staff, and that is thanks to the coordination of IHS with our office.



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