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Cherokee Nation to receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – A tribal nation says it is set to receive its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine next week.

The Cherokee Nation says it will receive 975 of the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine next week.

“We have been working with IHS and following CDC guidelines to create a prioritization plan that will include our frontline health care workers and those who are at high risk of infection to be among the first to receive the vaccine so that we can get our most vulnerable and at-risk populations vaccinated,” said Brian Hail, Deputy Executive Director of External Operations for Cherokee Nation Health Services.

Tribal leaders say they will vaccinate frontline healthcare workers, emergency responders, Cherokee speakers, Cherokee National Treasures, and elders over the age of 65.

“Taking a COVID-19 vaccine is another step forward to saving lives among our Cherokee people and helping stop the spread of this deadly virus in our Cherokee communities,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “I know some of our Cherokee elders may have reservations about taking the vaccine, but it will save our elders, our speakers, our National Treasures and frontline workers. As we continue our phased plan and get more doses into 2021 to begin vaccinating our employees and citizens, we can begin the process of healing from what we know is the worst public health crisis our tribe has faced in generations.”

Officials say they have made several updates to their facilities in order to keep the COVID-19 vaccines stored properly.

The vaccine will be given in two doses with the second dose given exactly 21 days after the first.

“The more of our frontline staff that receive the vaccine puts us in line to receive larger allocations in the future. Use of this first allocation and the time in which we administer it, is very important to benefit our communities moving forward,” said Dr. R. Stephen Jones, Executive Director of Cherokee Nation Health Services.

Once the first group of Cherokee citizens is vaccinated, officials say they plan to provide vaccines to non- healthcare critical staff like teachers, childcare providers, food security staff, shelter staff, and those with underlying health conditions.

So far, the Cherokee Nation has had nearly 7,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and 50 deaths, including 20 Cherokee speakers within its health system.

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more readily available, the tribe encourages everyone to continue to wear a mask, wash their hands regularly and observe social distancing. The benefit provided by the vaccine will take several months before it decreases the amount of community spread and impact to Cherokee families and communities.

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