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Researchers find community is key to high COVID-19 vaccination rates in Indigenous communities

COVID sign Navajo Nation
Felicia Fonseca/AP
A sign urging safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic is seen in Teesto, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation on Feb. 11, 2021. Teesto workers, health representatives, volunteers and neighbors keep close tabs on another to ensure the most vulnerable citizens get the help they need. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

University Showcase, 2/18, 8a: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit indigenous communities in New Mexico and across the country particularly hard, bringing to the fore ongoing discrimination in the healthcare system. But the American Indian and Alaska Native population has consistently had the highest first dose and full vaccination rates of any racial or ethnic group.

That’s despite a long history of colonialism that has instilled distrust in government and some medical institutions.
A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine by two University of New Mexico scholars, and researchers at other universities, explores the effectiveness of the Indigenous communities' response.

On this episode we talk with Gabriel Sanchez professor of political science, and the founding Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, and Raymond Foxworth, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a visiting scholar in the political science department at UNM. He is also Vice President of First Nations Development Institute. He leads the organization’s research and advocacy efforts largely focused on documenting social inequities in Native American communities, elevating models for community change and advocating for greater representation and responsiveness by philanthropy and the federal government.

Megan has been a journalist for 25 years and worked at business weeklies in San Antonio, New Orleans and Albuquerque. She first came to KUNM as a phone volunteer on the pledge drive in 2005. That led to volunteering on Women’s Focus, Weekend Edition and the Global Music Show. She was then hired as Morning Edition host in 2015, then the All Things Considered host in 2018. Megan was hired as News Director in 2021.
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