All residents in the state of Oklahoma are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccines due to the efforts of several Native tribes. Last week, the Chickasaw Nation opened up all of its available Covid-19 vaccine appointments to all Oklahoma residents, regardless of whether or not they were a fellow member of the tribe or not.
Other tribes that are located in Oklahoma have expanded their vaccinations as well to reach residents beyond just those within the tribe. “The Osage, Choctaw and Citizen Potawatomi Nations are offering vaccines to all members of the public, while the Cherokee Nation has opened appointments to anyone residing within its 14-county jurisdiction,” according to CNN.
The state of Oklahoma in general is currently in Phase 3 of its vaccine distribution plan, the criteria of which covers a wide variety of residents including healthcare workers, first responders, residents 65 and older, those with medical conditions, teachers and school staff, students 16 and older, people in congregate settings, public health staff, government officials and essential workers. The Oklahoma state government has to enter into Phase 4 of its plan before it prioritizes vaccinating everyone like the Native tribes are.
Tribal nations in Oklahoma received a multitude of vaccines from the Indian Health Service. As the vaccination process continued these tribes demonstrated an efficient ability to get shots distributed quickly, so they began receiving more and more, allowing them to expand their efforts beyond their own tribes.
Dr. John Krueger is the chief medical officer for the Chickasaw Nation who recently spoke with the media to credit his tribe’s “robust infrastructure” for its ability to distribute vaccines to non-Native members quickly and effectively.
“The Chickasaw Nation recently opened a new facility in the city of Ada with 16 drive-thru lines, dramatically increasing our capacity. We also have three other vaccination sites as well as a team that travels to people’s homes. Now that those in our Nation’s priority groups have been offered vaccines, the tribe is able to move on to those outside the tribe. We are a part of these communities, and they are a part of us. The faster we can get all of us back to essential protection, the better it is for us and the better it is for everyone,” Krueger explained. The Chickasaw Nation has administered more than 30,000 vaccines.
The Choctaw Nation also attributes their success in expanding who they vaccinate to an efficient first phase of distribution that quickly got all priority groups vaccinated when they needed to be. According to Captain Clinton Bullock, director of pharmacy for the Choctaw Nation Health Care Center, “It’s not necessarily an issue of supply outpacing demand, rather, the tribe is capitalizing on the resources offered by the Indian Health Service to help protect the rest of the state. There are, of course, non-Native members of the community that our tribal citizens come in contact with. Helping to develop this herd immunity not only benefits the tribal members, but the community as a whole.” The Choctaw Nation has administered over 20,000 vaccines according to Bullock.
Many tribal health providers have outpaced the rest of the country as a whole in distributing the vaccine. This is mainly due to the fact that a lot of these tribes independently receive their vaccine allotments from the Indian Health Service, as opposed to the state health department, which has helped them get priority individuals vaccinated faster, so that the rest of the state could also catch up.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.