Lummi Nation member James Scott receives one of the 300 Pfizer vaccine doses sent to the Lummi Tribal Health Center. (Screenshot taken from video by Children of the Setting Sun Productions)

Also, Lummi will participate in the Noravax vaccine trial

WHATCOM — Lummi Nation on Friday, Dec. 18, administered its first Pfizer vaccine to a tribal member following delivery of 300 doses to the tribe.

James Scott, a Lummi Nation member and facilities worker at the Lummi Tribal Health Center, was the first to receive one of the 300 Pfizer doses.

“If there’s anything I can do to help our generation and the next generations live longer, that’s why I’m doing it,” said Scott. “I’m just showing our children this is how we do it. We don’t run from a fight, we stand up for our family, we stand up for our people, and most importantly we stand up for mankind.”

Also, in Bellingham a registered nurse and a pulmonology doctor at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center received the first shots at a ceremony there Friday morning. 

In related news, the Lummi Indian Business Council also approved the tribe’s participation in a phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Novavax. The vote to approve the vaccine trial came only after a three-step process of approval that included community input.

Lummi doctors said getting the first vaccines was welcome news, but the coronavirus fight isn’t over.

“This virus is only getting more invasive and deadly,” said Lawrence Solomon, Lummi Nation chairman. “We are blessed that we have been able to begin administering vaccines to elders and frontline workers, but we want every option made available to our relatives to fight the pandemic. The vaccine trial is just one more tool they have if they want it.”

The opportunity to participate in the Novavax trial came after the tribe withdrew from an AstraZeneca trial, citing communications challenges following a pause in the study when participants experienced adverse reactions.

Approval to be in the Noravax trial came after a review of the study protocols by the Northwest Indian College Institutional Review Board, the Lummi Health Commission and LIBC. Each group reviewed the vaccine trial with special attention to past medical studies that have harmed Native communities.  

“After careful review of the Novavax trial, we are optimistic that this is a better fit for Lummi members who want to participate,” said Dr. Dakotah Lane, Lummi Public Health Department medical director  and Lummi Nation member. “Native peoples are at a much higher risk of severe symptoms and death from the coronavirus, so there’s a lot at stake with combatting the pandemic in our tribal communities.”

The Lummi Public Health Department anticipates starting to enroll volunteers in the Novavax study as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives the green light. The study has the ability to enroll up to 200 volunteers, and two-thirds of the study participants will receive the actual vaccine. One in three will receive a placebo. Participants who receive the placebo will be among the first people to receive the actual vaccine once it is made available to the public.