TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Health Services was recently honored as the recipient of two national Indian Health Service awards.

The Pandemic Heroism Award for its COVID-19 Task Force and the Director’s Customer Service Award awards were presented to Cherokee Nation Health Services.

“Cherokee families have seen and felt the positive impact that our health system and our public health team have made on our communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., Principal Chief in a prepared statement.

“Our Health Services and Public Health teams have put the lives of the Cherokee people first. They have served not only our own families, but our neighbors and friends across the reservation and in communities at large,” Hoskin said.

The Pandemic Heroism Award recognizes exceptional, dedicated work and selfless responses in the face of the COVID pandemic and the Director’s Customer Service Award recognized the innovation and exceptional performance of the Pandemic Vaccine Task Force team.

“Their expertise during the pandemic saved countless lives and helped us to lessen the negative impacts of the virus on our most vulnerable populations, which in turn helped to protect our precious Cherokee language and culture,” Hoskin said.

“We identified and removed barriers to services for both patients and employees and all of our decisions made were weighed with the current infectious disease evidence and epidemiological trends for our area at the time,” said Dr. R. Stephen Jones, Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Director.

“Vaccine acceptance was our initial focus,” said Brian Hail, Cherokee Nation Health Services Deputy Executive Director. “Even before we had the COVID-19 vaccines in hand, we conducted focus groups with community members and outreach via Public Health, provided social media posts and mailers, and video messages from tribal leaders and physicians to educate our communities and address any concerns or questions.”

Cherokee Nation Health Services has administrated nearly 119,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since receiving its first shipment in December 2020.

“We’ve gone to where the people are in an effort to reach everyone. Besides offering the vaccine at every health center, we hosted drive-through events across the reservation, with the help of our tribal Administration provided incentives for staff vaccinations, and offered the vaccine to anyone in our community, regardless of citizenship in a tribe,” said Wayne Coldwell, Cherokee Nation Health Services Deputy Executive Director.

COVID-19 vaccines including the COVID-19 bivalent booster are available to any member of the public at all Cherokee Nation health center locations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.