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Local Tribal Nations move quickly through COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans

Cherokee and Choctaw Nation members 16 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Local tribal nations are now offering COVID-19 vaccines to those ages 16 and older.

While in some parts of the country the vaccine distribution continues to lag, tribal nations have moved quickly and efficiently through their plans.

“Currently we are in Phase 3. Phase 3 is basically all individuals that are eligible for our services," said Dr. Stephen Jones, Executive Director Health Services for Cherokee Nation.

This includes CDIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) members and members of the household. Tribal nations are not bound by state vaccine distribution plans.

“Choctaw Nation has its own phasing plan and we’ve already advanced through our Phases 1-5," said Matthew Akers, Clinical Director of Operations, Poteau clinic.

Both the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations worked directly with the federal government’s Indian Health Services Department to receive allotments of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

The Cherokee Nation has received its first shipment of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“That being a one-dose vaccine is going to be helpful for us. We have had some challenges because of the rural nature of our reservation to be able to meet the needs of some of our home-bound patients," Jones said.

The Choctaw Nation has taken advantage of mass vaccination clinics and a recent event in Poteau inoculated 900 people in one day.

“We have given in excess over 17,000 vaccines at this point. We’ve had a little over 11,000 of our populations have been completely vaccinated and received both doses," Akers said.

The Cherokee Nation is even further along and has been able to vaccinate more than 28,500 people.

“We have the capacity to give up to 2,500 a day to give, as our allocations have increased, currently we are at about 1,500 open appointments per day," Jones said.

Members still have to call ahead or go online to make an appointment to receive the vaccine.

While variants of the coronavirus are starting to spread across the country, the goal for tribal nations is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

For Choctaw Nation members: https://www.choctawnation.com/covid-19

For Cherokee Nation members: https://health.cherokee.org/

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