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Press Release

Release Date: December 22, 2020

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

  • Rhonda Brown, a Chickasaw elder and Chickasaw Nation Department of Health employee fighting on the front lines against the COVID-19 pandemic, received the first COVID-19 vaccination at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center.

  • Chickasaw Nation Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Krueger with a shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Health care providers among first to receive doses of Pfizer vaccine

ADA, Okla. – In the early morning hours of Dec. 16, Rhonda Brown, a Chickasaw elder and laboratory phlebotomy supervisor with the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health fighting on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, received the first official dose of the COVID-19 vaccination among Chickasaw employees.

"Everyone should take the opportunity to take the shot," Brown said. "The vaccine is going to help a lot of us be healthier and more optimistic."

The Chickasaw Nation was joining others nationwide in receiving the first doses of vaccine for health care providers.

Two days before, Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, symbolized the beginning of the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout when she received the first official U.S. COVID-19 vaccination shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14.

They both received the vaccination produced by Pfizer. Both had been on the front lines of the pandemic, offering direct health care to patients.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said the vaccine’s arrival marked a great day in the Chickasaw Nation.

"As we celebrate this great day, we must remain committed to the safety of those around us," Governor Anoatubby said. "The COVID-19 vaccine is one more step in stopping the pandemic, which requires the use of all available tools. The combination of getting vaccinated and continuing to follow safety recommendations offers the best protection from the virus. We urge citizens everywhere to continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. We encourage citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available."

As Brown and Lindsay were vaccinated, an effort to distribute the vaccine by land and air was underway. Following emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, workers at a manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, began sending the first U.S. shipments of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

This cross-country transit allowed for the first injections targeting high-risk health care workers. Nearly 3 million doses were administered. These same people will receive a second and final dose 21 days after the first vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises vaccination supplies will increase over time and all adults should be able to get vaccinated in 2021.

Pfizer’s vaccine

There are several COVID-19 vaccines being developed and tested. The vaccine produced by Pfizer was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in trials, which included 43,538 participants.

It utilizes technology that works differently than common flu vaccinations, though both cause the body to develop antibodies to protect against infections.

Flu vaccinations often rely on inactivated viruses or a single protein from the flu virus to get the body’s immune system trained to fight specific strains of the flu. The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer uses mRNA to help our bodies develop immunity.

According to the CDC: mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19, which gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.

Those receiving COVID-19 vaccinations are receiving material that trains the body's immune system. They are not receiving an inactive version of the virus itself.

With the Pfizer vaccine, after two doses protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination.

Based on its current projections, Pfizer expects to produce up to 50 million global vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Pfizer began development of the vaccine in January, just after the genetic code of the virus was mapped. Now, a tested, finished and approved product has made it to hospitals across the country.

While the vaccine was developed, tested and granted emergency approval within a year, the process relies on scientific advances more than a decade in the making, and people have been working on mRNA vaccine technology since the 1990s.

The FDA granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for people ages 16 and older.

Pfizer is a proven, reliable multinational vaccine producer. It has supplied vaccines to more than 165 countries and manufactures more than 200 million doses of vaccines annually.

Other COVID-19 vaccinations being produced are "protein subunit vaccines" and "vector vaccines." Moderna is also among the companies working to create COVID-19 vaccines.

Chickasaw Nation and the COVID-19 vaccination distribution

The Chickasaw Nation is preparing to assist the state of Oklahoma with the distribution of vaccines once they are available to targeted, high-risk priority groups, as well as the public.

The new Emergency Multi-Use Facility (EMU) in Ada will be pivotal for vaccine distribution in the area once vaccines are publicly available.

The new facility will serve as a unified incident command center as well as a COVID-19 drive-thru testing and vaccination site for the community.

Because it has such a big parking lot, the Chickasaw Nation will be able to manage 16 lanes of traffic to drive through and get vaccines.

When planning the facility, care was taken to ensure adequate storage capacity and the ultralow temperature freezers needed to get vaccines out to the public quickly.

The facility will serve as a mass immunization site when a vaccine becomes readily available. It will also be a community-based distribution point for additional services such as emergency rations, water and PPE.

Expansions to the Chickasaw Nation Ada South Campus will also play a role in the response to COVID-19. New space was needed for the five new laboratory instruments purchased for COVID-19 diagnostics, including state-of-the-art rapid testing and antibody machines.