Vaccinating Native Children Against Covid-19 and Its Variants

Alastair Mullholland
February 2, 2023

There are many concerns among Native American populations about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, even as the virus wreaks havoc, causing high mortality rates. But the biggest underlying fear behind the vaccine hesitancy is the distrust of the American government. This trauma is rooted in centuries of various forms of genocide and patterns of deceit perpetrated upon First Nations peoples by the government of the United States of America. 

For these reasons, it is easy to understand that there would be suspicions about offering free vaccines to Native peoples. And the mistrust would increase dramatically when the vaccination program is extended to their children, who up to this point had been told were relatively immune to the virus. 

However, the many myths that the vaccination effort is nefarious can be challenged. For example, according to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, higher income countries also had higher vaccination rates which correlated to much faster economic recoveries. The economies of many lower income countries remain in shambles.

 In other words, the vaccination push is not necessarily to help or hurt the Native people in particular. But instead, to restore the economic viability of the nation as a whole. Everyone is, after all, living in the same boat and so collective inoculation can most effectively guard against the virus. 

Pediatrician Leslie Sude – as reported by  news website – says “While a significant proportion of the population was not eligible for vaccination, there was still the opportunity for widespread circulation of COVID , who could then keep transmitting it to older people”. 

“And as long as the virus spreads from person to person, the virus can keep changing and evolving into new variants,” added Dr. Sude.

Fortunately, the legitimate move to resuscitate the economy is no threat to children. According to a Yale Medicine report, experts have found no cases of or pericarditis as side effects among children who received the vaccine.

At the personal level, Bianca Bonilla, who is of indigenous Mexican roots and is the founder of  in North County-San Diego, did not jump at the first chance to get the vaccine when she became qualified. But she eventually had the shots to provide a safeguard for her 70 plus-age parents, who live with her. 

Bonilla stated, “I don’t think anything is perfect and I am not a scientist who specializes in vaccines, but I do appreciate peer reviewed science.” And the science showed her that the benefits far outweigh the risks, she added, “this is how we got rid of polio.”

In addition, Bonilla felt that getting that vaccination was a civic responsibility, a necessary step toward reaching herd immunity and that was important for those that were unable to be vaccinated. For all of these reasons, Bonilla decided that her 8-year-old daughter should also be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Esmeralda Hummingbird Aldaz, who is of Numuúnuu, N’dee, Wixáritari ancestry and is the founder of , was also hesitant at first to get the vaccines. She recalled the forced sterilization, unethical medical experiments, and related historical trauma endured by Native Americans. 

Hummingbird elaborated, “I was uncomfortable at first to get it, but after a year of watching and waiting, I got it.” Her primary motivations were twofold: to protect the children and the elders and to meet the requirements from her job. 

Hummingbird has three daughters living with her. Two are still in high school and one has recently graduated. She encouraged each of her children to do their own research. Eventually, they all together decided to be vaccinated. “We all went with the Moderna Vaccine, because it seemed to be best based on our research,” Hummingbird explained.

There is plenty of misinformation out there with regard to the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine, however there is also a lot of reliable information. One must consider the source when deciding what is best for the health of oneself and one’s loved ones. 

On its website, the  explains that the extension of access to the vaccine of children 6 months and older is crucial for the prevention Covid-19 related hospitalizations and deaths. “Through continued safety monitoring, Covid-19 vaccination has been found safe for over 10 million children and teens who have already received at least one vaccine dose.”