The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on life around the country. To stem the tide in the battle against this deadly virus, we have had to change how we go about our daily lives. One of the biggest changes has been the need to reduce or eliminate contact with our family, friends and neighbors, something especially challenging for our elderly or those who find themselves homebound. Reducing contact also has been difficult for those in rural communities where neighbors are used to coming together to support each other during difficult times.
Now that we have vaccines available to everyone 16 and older, there is a brighter forecast on the horizon. But an important part of the solution is for everyone to have the opportunity to receive a vaccination. Our partners in North Dakota and South Dakota have done an outstanding job in making the shots available, and we are seeing an increasing number of individuals vaccinated.
FEMA has supported state, tribal and local vaccination efforts. We are expanding those efforts by partnering with the Indian Health Service Great Plains Area office and 11 tribal nations to deploy two Mobile Vaccination Units that will visit tribal communities and some nearby larger cities with large tribal populations. These mobile units will travel to communities that may have limited access to health care facilities or pharmacies providing the vaccine. Rather than requiring individuals to travel for the vaccine, we are bringing the shots directly to them.
These mobile units do not require advance appointments so are readily available to everyone, even those without internet service. Residents can walk in, wait their turn and receive their shot. Our goal is to make the process as simple and convenient as possible.
Following a disaster, FEMA looks to help get communities back on their feet. The response to the pandemic has been no different. Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get these critical vaccines is a vital step in bringing our communities together once again.
Nancy Dragani is the Acting Administrator for FEMA Region 8, which serves Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, along with the 29 tribal nationals within those states.