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Sault Tribe Health Division was notified Wednesday that it will receive an initial shipment of 185 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, possibly as early as Dec. 15.

Federal emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine is expected to occur as early as Thursday, Dec. 10.

Dr. Leo Chugunov, the tribal health administrator, said the vaccines are to be delivered from the Indian Health Service via the U.S. Coast Guard.

He said it’s possible that vaccinations can begin on Dec. 16. Dr. Chugunov said the vaccines will first be offered to Health Division team members, then to critical personnel outside of the Health Division, then to tribal elders.

He said a second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, also 185 doses, is expected to arrive on Jan. 5. Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses per patient, three weeks apart.

Dr. Chugunov said that based on information he has received, a vaccine developed by Moderna that could receive emergency use authorization as soon as Dec. 17 might be shipped soon after, but in even smaller quantities than the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine also requires two doses per patient.

He said the Indian Health Service asked him how many doses the Sault Tribe will need. His response: 32,000 doses to vaccinate the 16,000 tribal members and non-tribal team members in the seven-county service area.

As production increases, more doses will become available, but nationwide, most healthy adults are not expected to receive the vaccine until summer or later.

Below is the tribal vaccine priority list: (The vaccine is for adults ages 18 and older.)

A. Health Division personnel.
B. Critical personnel of the Sault Tribe (non-Health Division).
C. Sault Tribe elders.

A. Adults at high risk for development of severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions.
B. Essential workers with direct interaction with the public or in high-density workplaces.
3. Essential workers without direct interaction with the public.
4. Adults without high-risk conditions.

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY