Oklahoma Tribes Among First To Administer COVID-19 Vaccines To Kids Aged 5 to 11

Friday, November 5th 2021, 8:42 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Although it was approved just this week, Oklahoma's tribal clinics have already given more than 100 children between the ages of 5 to 11 Pfizer’s low-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

Tribes have their vaccines earlier since they get them directly from the Indian Health Service and not the state health department. This week, the Cherokee Nation got 1,200 dosages, and the Muscogee Nation got 600.

Julius Easter is one of the first Cherokee children in the 5 to 11 age group to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"It didn't hurt at all,” said Easter, a Tahlequah resident.

By choice, the 9-year-old has been in virtual learning since March 2020 and will return to in-person learning once he's had both doses.

"I've been waiting a long time for this, and I was really excited when I got the news that I could get the shot," said Easter.

His mom, Katie Smith-Henshaw, told News On 6 she is grateful the tribe has vaccines at all nine Cherokee Nation health centers.

"When Julius got his first dose, I was able to get my booster, and it was a really easy, easy process,” explained Smith-Henshaw.

Whitney Essex with Cherokee Nation Health Services told News On 6 that 32 children in the age group got vaccinated Thursday, and 82 more got their shot Friday at the tribe's clinics.

"We're in the early group of clinics who get the vaccine, and it's definitely a big advantage,” said Essex. “The earlier that you can get the vaccine, the earlier you're protected."

The Muscogee Nation will start giving pediatric vaccines next week at six of its clinics. Lt. Cdr. Sam Hubler with Muscogee Nation Department of Health said the tribe is training staff on protocols and storing vaccines in “ultra-cold storage freezers.”

"Because this one is a different vaccine in the way that it is stored, administered, we make sure that those people truly understand how to handle that," said Hubler.

The Cherokee Nation said it is offering vaccinations to everyone, regardless if you're a tribal member and no matter where you live.

The Muscogee Nation said it also plans to do that once most of its members are vaccinated.