TAHLEQUAH, OK – Cherokee Nation Health Services has reached a milestone of fully vaccinating 70 percent of active Cherokee Nation government employees for the COVID-19 virus. Cherokee Nation Health Services began administering the vaccine in December 2020 and has given more than 65,200 vaccines through the Cherokee Nation health care system.
“The 70 percent active employee vaccination achievement means we have a better chance at protecting our Cherokee Nation citizens,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “It remains the Cherokee Nation’s goal to vaccinate as many people as possible across the reservation, especially as we see growing concerns about new variants and the accompanying increase in positive cases and hospitalizations. We will adjust our approach according to CDC recommendations and advice of our medical experts as we continue to rely on science, facts and compassion. Meanwhile, we ask everyone to act responsibility for themselves and their neighbors. I’m proud of the efforts of our Cherokee Nation employees for taking steps to ensure the safety of the people they serve as well as themselves.”
Cherokee Nation officials credit the 70 percent vaccination rate among employees to the efficient and effective actions taken by Cherokee Nation health care staff. When the tribe’s first COVID-19 vaccines were available, Cherokee Nation Health Services employees and Cherokee first-language speakers were given priority. In addition to swift action of healthcare staff, Cherokee Nation employees were also provided paid administrative leave to receive the vaccine.
Cherokee Nation employees have been vaccinated at a rate nearly twice that of the counties in Oklahoma. Across the country, many communities are attempting to reach “herd immunity,” a status that can be achieved when enough people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and developed protective antibodies against future infection. The goal to achieve this among Cherokee Nation government employees was 70 percent.
“Although we’ve vaccinated 70 percent of our employees, we haven’t won the race yet,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “But I do believe the Cherokee Nation is on the right track. I appreciate all of our employees for being an example and doing what needs to be done to keep our tribal services operating and citizens protected.”
Chief Hoskin signed an executive order, which went in effective on May 25, 2021, encouraging more than 4,200 government employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and providing a $300 incentive program. Cherokee Nation entities including Cherokee Nation businesses are offering similar incentives under the order.