Osage officials encourage community members to consider getting COVID-19 vaccine

Elected Osage leaders are applauding efforts of the Osage Nation Health Services Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center to expand opportunities and eligibility to make the COVID-19 vaccine more available to the Osage and Native American community.

During the month of February, the WZZHC dropped the age limit twice for eligible patients to receive the vaccine as distribution supply became more available to the Nation. First, the WZZHC held a Feb. 6 vaccine event at the Nation’s Civic Center for patients age 30 and older and on Feb. 23, the clinic announced the COVID-19 vaccine is available to Osages and Native Americans age 18 and older.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear acknowledged the Nation’s vaccination efforts during the Feb. 2 special session during his executive message.

“As many of you supported the efforts of the Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center, Dr. Ron Shaw, the Health Authority Board, over 1,000 people have been vaccinated using the allocations provided by the Indian Health Service, which we have found is not enough,” Standing Bear told Congress that day. “We have been averaging about 100 doses per week. I’m glad to report that through the efforts of Dr. Shaw and the staff, 500 doses were delivered to the Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Clinic yesterday afternoon. There is a very strong distribution program that appears and I verified working well. This is great work by our health system and I encourage our people to take advantage of this.”

Standing Bear said he’s heard reports that eligible patients have declined the vaccine opportunity when reached by phone, but still encouraged the public to consider the vaccine. “I’ve taken the second shot and I’m fortunate to not have any reactions to the first or second (shot) and I can tell you I’m much more comfortable with my belief that I’m much better protected. I encourage our people to look further into this option, consult with whoever you wish to consult with and we will continue to offer the vaccination to those who are eligible ... and we will continue to push for more and more doses.

Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt was the first WZZHC patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 16 when the clinic received the Pfizer-BioNTech from its initial vaccine distribution made by Indian Health Service. Since then, the WZZHC has also started offering the Moderna vaccine to patients and Pratt has also received her second booster vaccine since then as recommended by both pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the respective vaccines thanks to emergency approvals by the FDA in December 2020.

At the request of WZZHC officials, Pratt agreed to be the first patient, and she also qualified under the WZZHC’s Phase 1 of the vaccination plan at the time, which sought eligible patients who were elders age 65 and older, healthcare workers and critical/ essential ON government employees and officials. Pratt also agreed with Standing Bear’s comments that the clinic is doing a good job in making the vaccine available and “I think we’ve been blessed altogether.”

“I had a good experience, I received my first and second (COVID-19 vaccine) doses as well, so have many members of our community, we’ve done a good job in covering our employees and elders and the age limit is dropping rapidly, so that’s good,” Pratt said in her legislative message. “I think overall in Indian Country, we’ve really been taken care of, tribes are really doing a good job of getting it out ... I ask that the members of Congress continue to speak to constituents on helping to ease their fear of the vaccine because as Chief stated, there are many who are turning the vaccine down and that’s unfortunate ... It’s almost a duty to America to do this. I just ask that the members continue to provide leadership to help ease our people’s fears and be willing to put them in contact with Dr. Shaw, the clinic, whatever we might need to do to help them ease their fears and understand a little bit better.”

In a Jan. 29 Facebook statement, Congressman Billy Keene also recognized the WZZHC vaccination efforts. “(I) Want to give a big thank you to the staff at the Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Clinic for their hard work and dedication delivering the COVID vaccine to the people we cherish. Oklahoma is currently among the national leaders in vaccination rates, a big part of this effort is because of Tribal clinics across the state. Your work doesn’t go unnoticed.”

On Feb. 12, Congressman Eli Potts said on Facebook he received his first COVID-19 vaccine the prior day and also encouraged people to make educated and advised decisions on getting the vaccine. “I have no side effects and everyone I know, who has received the vaccine, has had no reaction. I encourage each of you to do what is best for you and your families. I also encourage each of you to get in line for the vaccine if you haven’t already. I believe it’s an important step in the fight against this virus ... When information and facts prevail, we all prevail in the fight against COVID-19. My greatest thanks to the employees of the 𐓷𐓘𐓻𐓘𐓻𐓟 Health Center. Be safe and wear a mask.”

On Feb 25, the WZZHC expanded its vaccine availability to eligible Osage and Native American patients who are age 18 and older. Those wishing to be vaccinated can visit the WZZHC COVID-19 vaccination station at the ON Civic Center Monday-Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. located at 1449 W. Main St. in Pawhuska. To make a vaccine appointment and for more information, the WZZHC COVID-19 vaccine hotline can be reached at (918) 287-0076.