As people across the United States jockey and wait to get vaccinated, a surprising problem is unfolding in the Cherokee Nation: plenty of shots, but not enough arms.
It is a side effect of early success, tribal health officials said. With many enthusiastic patients inoculated and new coronavirus infections at an ebb, the urgency for vaccines has gone distressingly quiet.
It is a dizzying public health challenge that cuts across the country. It encompasses persuading skeptics, calling people who do not realize they are now eligible, and making vaccines accessible for homebound patients, overstretched working families and people in rural areas and minority communities.
The vaccine rollout in Native communities has been a surprising source of strength, especially as vaccinations of other communities, such as Black and Hispanic Americans, continue to lag behind white populations.
Working through the Indian Health Service and long-established networks of tribally run clinics, tribes are outpacing much of the country, already giving shots to healthy adults and eligible teenagers. Some have even thrown open the doors to non-tribal members inside their borders.