Syringes filled with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

A growing number of tribal nations have offered, or are beginning to offer, incentives for tribal citizens or members who get the Covid-19 vaccination.

In Oklahoma, the Muscogee Nation’s vaccine incentive portal started taking applications on October 1. It allowed for a payment of $500 if the individual was fully vaccinated by September 30 or $300 by December 31. 

“We wanted to get as many citizens vaccinated as possible,” Muscogee Nation Press Secretary Jason Salsman told the Daily Yonder. 

Salsman said tribal citizens sign up in an online portal system and upload their vaccination card along with a completed application form. 

He said the National Council voted to set aside $40 million out of the American Rescue Plan Act funds for vaccination incentives. 

In May, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed an executive order allowing for a vaccine reward and incentive program for the 4,300 tribal government employees. 

“Currently about 40% of our Cherokee Nation employee base is vaccinated and we know we need that figure to increase to 70% to reach herd immunity,” Hoskin said in a statement in May. “Raising awareness, offering an incentive program, and setting a goal for achievement is another way to help increase our immunity percentage so we can continue to help protect our tribe, workplace, Cherokee speakers, language, and elders from Covid-19.”

In Wisconsin, a handful of tribal nations are offering incentives. The Oneida, Menominee, and Ho-Chunk tribes are offering a $500 incentive for vaccinations, including those who have already received the jab. 

And in Montana, the Blackfeet Nation recently announced it was offering a $500 incentive to students who get vaccinated. 

“The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council finds that the Blackfeet Reservation has suffered from the Covid-19 Pandemic as a Native American Community with higher rates of unemployment, lack of basic necessities like food and housing to combat the pandemic, and that any defense to such pandemic has been severely limited due to the Blackfeet Reservation already suffering from preexisting social vulnerabilities from such lack of resources for food, housing, health care, income, transportation, internet connection, and basic water and wastewater infrastructure has further exacerbated the impacts of the pandemic on the Blackfeet Reservation,” the resolution stated. 

A September 2021 study appearing in BMJ reported that although American Indians and Alaska Natives have many high levels of rates of disease and there have been many barriers to access to health care, they are consistently leading the way among groups for Covid-19 vaccinations. 

On September 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 47.5% of American Indians and Alaska Natives were fully vaccinated. This compared with 41.8% of Asians, 37.8% of white Americans, and 29.9% of African Americans. 

“Community leaders ascribe this success to two things: first, the U.S. government’s decision to allow Native American communities to control vaccine distribution; and second, traditional ethnic values including respect for elders, ‘community first’ philosophies, and a willingness to trust science—so long as it’s presented by community members themselves,” the paper said.