American Indians Receive $4 Billion to Combat COVID-19

Lindsay Kalter

April 16, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Biden administration will invest more than $4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to fight the disease among Native Americans and Alaska natives, the White House announced Friday.

The CDC reported recently that Native Americans and Alaska's indigenous people were 3.5 times more likely to get COVID-19 than the non-Hispanic white population, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, said during a press briefing Friday. "Native people are also more than 4 times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19," he said.

The $4 billion will go toward testing, treatment, and contact tracing, along with expanded vaccination efforts, Murthy said. It will also send money to tribal health programs to compensate for lost reimbursements during the pandemic.

A total of $600 million will go toward increased vaccinations in Native American populations, which will include mobile vaccination efforts to help reach rural areas.

Though vaccine hesitancy has been higher in non-white communities, a recent survey from the Urban Indian Health Institute found that 75% of Native Americans and Alaska natives would be willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Increasing vaccine sites and mobile units will only boost those numbers, Murthy said.

"Increasing access to vaccines is critical for increasing confidence in vaccines," he said.

Meanwhile, coronavirus rates continue to rise nationwide, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during the briefing. The current 7-day average of new cases is nearly 70,000.

"I know case numbers may seem similar from day to day, but just 4 weeks ago, our 7-day average was only about 53,000 cases per day," Walensky said.

The 7-day average of COVID-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations are 5% to 8% higher than the prior 7-day period.