Choctaw Nation release
DURANT – A successful project and partnership returns this fall benefiting all citizens in southeastern Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation and the State of Oklahoma signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Aug. 20, 2016 that launched a joint effort to protect the health and welfare of all citizens within the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation. Chief Gary Batton and Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Kline arranged for the Choctaw Nation to supply influenza vaccines and for the Oklahoma State Department of Health to oversee administering the vaccinations. It was so successful last flu season that the project is back.
On Friday, Chief Batton said, “It is great to partner with the State of Oklahoma to provide flu vaccines to our tribal members and the communities we serve. Our goal is that we prevent loss of days from children missing school, work for our families, and that our elders don’t have to be hospitalized.”
Two developments were stated in the MOU which prompted the original agreement. There had been a steady increase in influenza and flu-like illnesses in recent years in southeastern Oklahoma. As a result, there was an economic burden on the region due to healthcare costs and reduced productivity.
During the 2014-2015 flu season, the health department reported 2,299 cumulative influenza-caused hospitalizations and/or deaths in Oklahoma. In the same time, 109 hospitalizations were reported, and two deaths caused by flu within the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation.
According to the MOU’s official arrangement, the tribe and the local county health departments believe the two parties can have a significant impact on reducing the incidence rate of influenza in the Choctaw Nation and throughout the entire state.
The vaccinations are now available to any person, free of charge, whether a tribal member or not. The county health departments will distribute the vaccinations to public schools, businesses, community centers, and other appropriate venues in the area.
Christopher Duff, Pharmacy Manager at the Choctaw Health Clinic – McAlester, is coordinating this year’s effort with Melissa Locke, District Nurse Manager for the Pittsburg County Health Department.
“Last year the Health Department gave 15,000 flu vaccines that were provided by Choctaw Nation,” Duff said on Friday. “They went to 11 counties. This year we have purchased 20,000 vaccines and expect them all to be used. We’re off to a good start.” The first shipment arrived in mid-September and was immediately distributed for use; the final shipment arrived last week, according to Duff.
The flu season runs into April 2018. Vaccination sites are currently slated this week through the end of November at a number of locations across southeastern Oklahoma. For a full listing of scheduled flu vaccination times and places, visit the local county websites, or email MelissaL@health.ok.gov or CMDuff@cnhsa.com.