Any resident of Oklahoma can now get the Covid-19 vaccine — but it’s not because of the state’s health department. Instead, Oklahomans have several Native tribes to thank. Last week, the Chickasaw Nation opened up Covid-19 vaccine appointments to all Oklahoma residents, regardless of whether they are citizens of the tribe. Other tribes headquartered in Oklahoma have expanded vaccinations beyond tribal citizens, too. 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. The state of Oklahoma, meanwhile, is currently on Phase 3 of its vaccine distribution plan. That criteria covers a wide swath of people, 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. Still, all residents won’t be eligible under the state’s plan until Phase 4.
Tribes want to reach herd immunity
Tribal nations in Oklahoma received allotments of the vaccine from the Indian Health Service. As those tribes demonstrated that they were able to get shots into arms quickly, they received more and more doses — allowing them to expand their efforts beyond their own populations.
Dr. John Krueger, chief medical officer for the Chickasaw Nation, credits the tribe’s robust infrastructure for its ability to offer vaccines to non-Native members of the community. The Chickasaw Nation recently opened a new facility in the city of Ada with 16 drive-thru lines, dramatically increasing its capacity. The tribe also has three other vaccination sites as well as a team that travels to people’s homes, Krueger added. …