Chickasaw Nation Offers Free Vaccines to All Oklahomans, Beating State Officials

The Native American nation is one of the first jurisdictions in the United States to offer vaccines to all state residents without restrictions.

This Sept. 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a clinician preparing to administer investigational Janssen Covid-19 vaccine. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)

ADA, Okla. (CN) — The Chickasaw Nation announced Friday evening it is immediately offering Covid-19 vaccines for free to all Oklahoma residents without restrictions, beating state officials who only days earlier expanded access to essential business employees and students and staff at daycares, colleges and trade schools.

The Native American nation tweeted it is accepting online appointments from Oklahomans with “no tribal citizenship or employee requirements” needed. The nation’s registration website said it continues to offer the vaccine to tribe members, Chickasaw Nation Department of Health patients, tribe employees and their families — including those who live outside of Oklahoma.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said the nation is “pleased to do our part” in ending the pandemic. He urged residents to continue wearing masks, socially distance and wash their hands.

“Working together, we can help protect our family, friends and neighbors as we help speed our return to a greater sense of normalcy,” he said in a statement Saturday.

Applicants must be at least 16 to receive the Pfizer vaccine and 18 to receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The shots are administered at the Chickasaw Nation Emergency Operations Facility in Ada, as well as satellite health clinics in Ardmore, Purcell and Tishomingo.

The Chickasaw Nation is one of the first jurisdictions in the United States to offer vaccines to all state residents without restrictions.

Friday night’s announcement comes two weeks after the Chickasaw decided to offer vaccines to all educators and their relatives for free.

Oklahoma state officials have yet to offer the vaccines to all residents, with the state moving to Phase 3 vaccinations on March 9. Phase 3 provides vaccinations for essential business and critical infrastructure employees, as well as students and staff at schools, not including pre-K to grade 12 – such as colleges, trade schools and day care.

A total of 1,159,199 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Saturday. Approximately 745,497 of those are first doses, while 413,702 are second doses. There have been 431,991 total cases of Covid-19 in Oklahoma with 7,486 deaths. Oklahoma has approximately 4 million residents.

Federally-recognized Native American nations are provided vaccine doses by the federal Indian Health Service and have the authority to administer the doses as they see fit. Several Oklahoma tribes in addition to the Chickasaw have been able to quickly administer doses and have been faster at vaccinating non-nation members than the state. On March 10, the Cherokee Nation expanded vaccine access to non-nation members living within the boundaries of their reservation east of Tulsa.

The Chickasaw people originate from Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee in the southeastern United States. They were forced by the federal government to sell over six million acres of their land at the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek in 1832 and were promised an equal amount of land to the west. 

The Chickasaw and Cherokee, among other tribes, were subjected to removal to Oklahoma after the Indian Removal Act was enacted in 1830. Thousands of Native Americans died from disease and starvation on the Trail of Tears.

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