Seneca Nation offering vaccine to neighboring school districts

The Lionel R. John Health Center, home of the Seneca Nation Health System in Salamanca.

The Seneca Nation is reaching out to school districts near its Cattaraugus and Allegany territories to help make COVID-19 vaccines accessible for eligible students and staff.

The Nation recently notified officials at Gowanda, Silver Creek, Lake Shore and Salamanca school districts that eligible students and staff can make vaccine appointments with the Seneca Nation Health System on target dates over the next two weeks.

“The recent rise in cases in the region, particularly among people 19 and younger, makes the urgency for everyone to get a COVID vaccine even greater,” said Matthew Pagels, Nation president. “Keeping our children and our schools safe has to be a priority, and we know that vaccine access in rural communities has been a challenge. The Seneca Nation is proud to work with our school district partners to do what we can to help get the vaccine to as many people in our community as possible.”

In Salamanca, the Seneca Nation Health System is scheduling appointments for the Pfizer vaccine this week, and appointments for the Moderna vaccine during the week of April 26.

“The Salamanca City Central School District is grateful for the vibrant partnership with the Seneca Nation and the Seneca Nation Health System,” said Robert Breidenstein, district superintendent.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, the Seneca Nation has collaborated with the distinct to ensure the safety of students and community, Breidenstein said. He said allowing Salamanca staff and students to have access to the vaccines at the Seneca Nation Health System demonstrates the strength of the entities’ relationship and the support of our community.

“We are safer today because of our mutual commitment to public safety,” he added.

For eligible students and staff in the Gowanda, Silver Creek and Lake Shore districts, the Seneca Nation Health System in Irving is scheduling appointments for the Pfizer vaccine on select days during this week. Appointments for the Moderna vaccine can be made during the weeks of April 26 and May 3.

“Strong partnerships like the one our district enjoys with the Seneca Nation are paramount in building strong, healthy schools and communities. This has taken on added importance throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Anderson, Gowanda district superintendent. “We are grateful to the Seneca Nation for making this outreach and helping us protect our community’s health and well-being.”

Lake Shore superintendent Dr. Charles Galluzzo said Seneca students are an important part of their school community, and the district has always enjoyed a strong working relationship with the Nation.

“Having the opportunity for our Lake Shore students and staff to access the COVID vaccine so nearby is a tremendous benefit,” he said. “This outreach is another important step in helping to protect our students, our staff and our entire district community.”

“Silver Creek Central School continues to work and partner with the Seneca Nation of Indians on promoting vaccinations,” added Silver Creek superintendent Todd Crandall. “We strongly urge all eligible individuals to be vaccinated. We believe that vaccination is an essential element to the fight against the coronavirus for our students, staff and community.”

Native American communities have been among the most impacted by the coronavirus. Federal statistics show that the COVID-related death rate among American Indian and Alaska Native people is nearly twice that of non natives. Three Seneca women from the same family were among the early victims in Cattaraugus County, dying within two weeks of each other in May and June 2020.

The Seneca Nation Health System began receiving vaccine doses for Nation members from the federal Indian Health Services in January. To date, the Health System has administered nearly 3,200 primary doses on the Nation’s territories and more than 2,300 Nation members have been fully vaccinated.

The school district partnerships are the latest effort by the Nation to help make the vaccine accessible to residents in neighboring communities. In March, the Nation worked with Cattaraugus County officials to conduct a series of primary and second dose vaccine clinics for County residents at the Seneca Allegany Events Center inside Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in Salamanca. In all, approximately 1,500 Cattaraugus County residents were fully vaccinated at the Seneca Allegany clinics.

“The battle against COVID-19 doesn’t begin or end at the borders of our Nation,” Pagels said. “We are one community, and we can only win this together. Helping our neighbors who live, work and go to school alongside us is part of that effort. We continue to urge everyone to make a vaccine appointment as soon as they are eligible and able to do so.”

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