The Osage Nation is among the latest Oklahoma tribes to begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults who want it, Native and non-Native alike.
"We want to ensure our Native people are vaccinated, but we have a lot of neighbors that we live side-by-side -- community members, friends, family members, coworkers that are non-Native," Osage Nation Health Services chief operations and compliance officer Laura Sawney said. "So in order to ensure that we're saturating all of our Native communities, that includes non-Natives."
Sawney said the Nation is able to do so because of a robust allocation from the federal Indian Health Service, as well as declining demand among previous priority groups.
"At the beginning, we were very conservative with our parameters and criteria, just like other tribal nations and even the state," Sawney said. "But as time progresses and people aren't coming -- what do they say, 'Open it and they will come?' We haven't always had that."
The Osage Nation Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center is taking walk-ins at the Osage Nation Civic Center in Pawhuska from 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Clinic manager Kirk Shaw said they will also be holding a mass vaccination clinic at the Osage Casino in Tulsa on Saturday, March 27, with the capacity to vaccinate about 1,000 people. Vaccine recipients must bring photo ID, but do not need to live in Oklahoma.
"That's in hopes that ... the closer we move in towards Tulsa, or being in Tulsa, to hopefully get some of those communities, especially now that we're moving to non-Natives as a whole and anybody can come," Shaw said.
Other tribes now vaccinating all comers include the Choctaw and Citizen Potawatomi Nations. The Chickasaw Nation is taking vaccine appointments for any Oklahoma resident. The Cherokee Nation is accepting appointments from anyone living within the boundaries of the tribe's 14-county reservation.