Phoenix • Navajo Nation officials said they will participate in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine trials amid a steady decline in coronavirus cases.
The American Indian territory once had the highest coronavirus infection rate in the country, but has since seen a substantial decrease in community spread, the Arizona Republic reported. Navajo officials reported zero new confirmed cases on Sept. 8 for the first time.
As of Friday, there have been 9,952 confirmed cases and 530 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in the Navajo Nation since the pandemic began, according to their Department of Health.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
The vaccine trials will be conducted at health care centers across the Navajo Nation. Participation is entirely voluntary.
“Several COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials are making progress across the U.S. and it’s important that the Navajo people have an opportunity to participate in a Phase 3 trial,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement.
The vaccine trial studies will be led by the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and will be the first coronavirus vaccine study conducted on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.