PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Parking lots outside the Blue Ridge Unified School District office were at capacity throughout the day on Tuesday, Mar. 23 during the COVID-19 vaccination event.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT), in a partnership with Indian Health Services (IHS) in Whiteriver, offered COVID-19 vaccinations to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Blue Ridge district office conference room.

The Blue Ridge facility was a perfect venue for the community health event said providers, staff and volunteers alike.

“Through the coexistence of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Whiteriver Hospital and Blue Ridge communities, we are able to keep one another safe,” said Whiteriver IHS Public Health Service Lieutenant Commander Justin Tafoya, RN, MSN. “We have so much gratitude for everyone’s cooperation and leadership in this effort.”

Tafoya said there were people lined up to get the COVID-19 vaccine as early as 8:30 a.m. Both the two-dose Pfizer and the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccines were available to everyone meeting the eligibility requirements.

Tafoya took the Independent on a station-by-station tour of the vaccine site. It began in the Blue Ridge district office hallway where small groups of people were brought into the building (to maintain social distancing.)

People were greeted by IHS staff as they received the first set of forms. For those interested, they were able to register as a patient in the IHS system.

After going through the first station, people were escorted to the school gymnasium. There they had room to spread out while they waited to be brought into the conference room.

As desks became available, small groups were brought to individual desks to complete their vaccine registration forms. IHS staff members were on hand to assist and answer questions as needed.

Meanwhile, other WMAT and IHS staff cleaned and sanitized desks and chairs as people left each station.

IHS medical providers reviewed paperwork and completed screenings before leading the person to a vaccination station.

After being vaccinated, people were educated about possible side effects then led to open areas to wait 15 minutes before leaving the site.

The IHS Mobile Medical Center vehicle was also on site as well as EMS-certified staff in the event of an emergency or severe allergic reaction.

Although there were large groups of people on site, the individual stations and staff expertise kept things efficient and maintained social distancing.

“There are a few things each of us can do to keep our communities safe,” said Tafoya. “When given the opportunity, get vaccinated. Keep all scheduled appointments for the vaccine. Continue to follow the preventative safety guidance set forth buy public health experts.”

The next event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 6. at the BRUSD, 1200 W. White Mountain Blvd. in Pinetop-Lakeside. No appointment is necessary and the services are provided free of charge.

Those interested in participating, please bring your insurance card and picture I.D.

Reach the reporter at

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

(1) comment


I didn’t have to wait at all Friday at Summit. In fact they took me 15 minutes early.

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