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Elders Trailblaze in Vaccinations
Elders lead by example receiving COVID-19 vaccine
By Uinita Mauigoa (Native Hawaiian/Tongan)
Square portrait photo of Uinita Mauigoa

isdom of Elders serves as one of the integral foundational guides for the advancement and prosperity of all Alaska Native cultures.

The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines coupled with the wisdom of Elders has contributed to a healthy start to a new chapter in the COVID-19 journey.

Southcentral Foundation (SCF) began administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to both frontline health care personnel and Elders in December. As SCF received additional vaccine, all employees and enrolled beneficiaries ages 16 and older have been provided the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

With the arrival of the vaccines comes questions, reservations, and more questions. During this time, we’ve seen Elders trailblazing by taking the initiative to get vaccinated. It highlights an aspect critical in keeping Alaska Native cultures healthy and thriving: The wisdom of Elders.

Elder Winifred Augustine, who is a mother, shared her thoughts on her experience acquiring her vaccinations. She said she received the vaccine to give her family a peace of mind.

“My son and daughter should be happy now because they don’t have to worry about me so much anymore,” Winifred said.

Naturally, there are a plethora of questions people have when it comes to the new vaccines. There are a few facts to keep in mind.

Though the vaccine has been shown to reduce chances of becoming seriously ill, it has not yet shown to completely prevent one from contracting COVID-19. For this reason, it is critical to continue to adhere to the precautions of wearing a mask, washing hands and physical distancing, even after receiving the vaccine.

It does take a few weeks for the body to build up immunity from the vaccine.  The first dose only provides some immunity and both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a second dose for maximum immunity. Skipping the second dose does not ensure maximum immunity. The second dose for Pfizer should be received 17-21 days after the first dose, while Moderna should be received after 28 days after the first dose. This ensures that the body is over 90% protected against becoming seriously ill should one contract COVID-19. Common side effects of COVID-19 vaccines include:

  • Pain and tenderness in muscles
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Mild flu-like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Feeling tired

Still with this list of mild side effects, many Elders are not deterred from receiving their vaccine.

Winifred shared that she understood some of her fellow Elders might have fears about reactions to the vaccine, but that they should not focus on the “what ifs.”

“I was a little sore, but that was it. Now I don’t have to worry so much,” Augustine said.

Augustine left some words of wisdom for those to keep in mind during the buzz of the arrival of the new vaccines. She emphasized that SCF providing her with a choice to become vaccinated was a huge benefit.

“Yes, it’s important, but it really is up to the individual. It is important that they know they have choice. People need to understand that. For those scared, maybe when things calm down, they will make the choice to get their vaccines, but it is up to them,” Augustine said.

Perhaps Augustine’s words provide comfort for those who may have reservations about getting vaccinated.

Much like the pulse of the Alaska Native drum, it is during times like this that we are reminded to stop and listen—to Elders—carefully and intently.