North Dakota leaders clear the air after “vaccine testing on Native Americans” rumor circulated online

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 6:52 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Centers for Disease Control has chosen North Dakota as one of four states to be used as a pilot for COVID-19 vaccine planning. But uproar online in the past couple of days has shown many people are confused about what exactly that means.

People took to online platforms, claiming the CDC was attempting to use Native American populations in North Dakota as testing subjects for the vaccine.

”I’m very deeply, deeply disappointed and irritated. People are pointing to our state as we’re going to use our tribal people as guinea pigs. That’s hurtful. That’s disgraceful,” said Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis.

In fact, North Dakota Department of Health leaders said the project isn’t a vaccine trial whatsoever.

”There’s not a COVID-19 vaccine trial that the government is overseeing in North Dakota,” said the state health department’s immunization program manager, Molly Howell.

She added Native American leaders and health professionals had seats at the discussion table."They are sovereign nations and they should be playing a large role in some of the decision-making around who should be prioritized for vaccine and how it should be distributed," said Howell.

Amidst the pandemic, tribal communities have held a strong relationship with the state, which is one of the reasons North Dakota was chosen for the pilot.

”On my calls with CDC, I said you have to consult directly with the tribal nations. Make sure that they’re not in the back of the line on getting this vaccine because right now, if you look across Indian country, other tribes are in the back of the line for testing kits and it’s unfortunate they have limited resources. It’s a struggle,” said Davis.

Scott Davis said when a vaccine becomes available, the tribes themselves will each make the final call on whether they’d like to participate in administering them or not.

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