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NEWS | April 27, 2021

SDNG supports vaccination events on Pine Ridge Reservation

By Staff Sgt. Austin Pearce, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

KYLE, S.D. – The South Dakota Army National Guard supported Indian Health Services and the Oglala Sioux Tribe during two COVID-19 vaccination events on the Pine Ridge Reservation April 16-17.

IHS and the OST asked for the SDARNG's help for vaccination events in Kyle and Pine Ridge.

“We want to provide multiple options for community members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dayle Knutson, chief nurse of the Great Plains Area for IHS. “This is another event that we can host in conjunction with our tribal partners to ensure we provide adequate accessibility to COVID-19 shots.”

The SDARNG’s 730th Area Support Medical Company in Vermillion provided medical personnel to assist in administering the vaccine and to provide administrative support.

“It’s nice to feel meaningful and that we’re doing something good for the community, not just our own Guard members but for civilians as well – it’s a good purpose,” said Spc. Shelby Roda, a combat medic with the 730th.

Vaccines were available for residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation and patients of the Pine Ridge IHS Service Unit – aged 16 years and older. The events also included a health fair to offer information and provide small health program items for community members.

Events like these make the COVID-19 vaccine available for community members that may not be able to receive it yet elsewhere.

“I’m currently a college student, and they’re not offering the vaccine as much as they are here, so I thought it was important to get it at home rather than wait,” said Emily Knutson, an OST member and student at South Dakota State University. “I’m here to get the vaccine because I haven’t been able to hug my grandma in over a year, and my best friend has Type I diabetes and I haven’t been able to see her in over a year.”

Providing community members the opportunity to improve and learn about their well-being has multiple effects on overall health.

“The more people we can vaccinate and bring in to educate on the scientific facts, the better we can stop COVID-19,” said Maj. Josh Paull, a physician’s assistant for Medical Command, SDARNG. “COVID-19 has obviously impacted the physical health of our communities, but it’s also had devastating effects on the mental health of many. By offering vaccines and a path to normal, it not only helps the health of our communities but also the mental health by bringing us back together.”