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Cherokee Nation Begins Vaccinating Its Health Care Workers

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Courtesy Cherokee Nation
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Dr. Kathryn Hughes, Director of Emergency Services for the Cherokee Nation, was one of the first people to get the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday.

Cherokee Nation has started vaccinating health care workers at their tribal health complex in Tahlequah, Okla.

Dr. Kathryn Hughes, the director of emergency services for the Cherokee Nation, was one of the first health care workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday morning

"I'm desperate to stop the spread of this terrible virus," Hughes said. "And if I can do my part, I wanted to do it as soon as possible."

Ashley Grant, director of laboratory services for the Cherokee Nation Health System, said part of her motivation for getting the vaccine was the fact that her elderly parents have chronic health conditions. She said the pandemic has hit the tribe so hard because of a tendency toward close familial ties.

"Family is everything. We tend to stay together, we do together, we live together. We have grandparents, parents and children living in the same home," Grant said.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the tribal government's top scientists have confirmed findings from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the vaccine is safe and effective.

"This is something I have 100% confidence in, and I encourage all Cherokees to get vaccinated when their time comes," Hoskin said. "When my time comes, you better believe I'm going to get the vaccine."

The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine arrived in Oklahoma on Monday morning, and the state has started the first of four phases in the state’s vaccination plan, which covers frontline health workers and nursing home staff and residents.

Cherokee Nation plans to vaccinate health care workers, first language speakers and Cherokee National treasures — those whose knowledge of Cherokee culture is considered priceless in this first phase.

Indian Health Service clinics around the state received their first shipment of the vaccine on Tuesday and will begin the process of administering the first shots.

As of Tuesday, December 15th the Cherokee Nation has had 7,614 positive cases of COVID-19 and 53 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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