Earlier this year I wrote several posts about the pandemic and vaccination role outs. I explored the trials of getting my elderly parents their vaccines in New York State when I lived in Wisconsin. I relayed frustrations at “the system” believing our elderly could manage online searches and registrations for the vaccines. Ultimately, I was successful in scheduling vaccines for my parents and with the gracious help of my sister-in-law, they were vaccinated at the end of March and completed their does at the end of April.
If you are interested, here are the links to these previous posts:
I did not say much about our own vaccine experience. As we were attempting to obtain vaccines so we could “be safe” travelling back to New York to see my parents and possibly get them to their condo in South Carolina (this has not happened), we heard through a friend that the Ho Chunk Nation was vaccinating members of the at large community, after their own residents.
Like most sites, the Ho Chunk site offered an online registration that did not guarantee vaccination but it seemed well thought out and straight forward, as compared to the pre-vaccine surveys I filled out for my parents (which included, their county, state, Walgreens, Rite-aid, and CVS). The following day, we were on our way to our cabin and a representative from the Ho Chunk Nation called us.
“Was I still interested in the vaccine?” a young man named Joe, asked.
“Yes, please.” was my answer, which I followed quickly by, “thank you so much!”
A few short questions later that included demographics, allergies, residency and identity confirmation, I was set to receive a vaccine the following Thursday! A similar phone call came through a few minutes later for my husband. We were both set.
Although locally, none of our vaccination providers had opened to the general public, the Ho Chunk nation had! We did not falsely state our roles, intentions, or reasons to get a vaccine; we simply said we heard they were giving them to the general community and if that was so, we would like to receive it. And, so it was done!
On the day of the first vaccine, we did not know what to expect. Instead of being given a specific time slot, we were told we could show up anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.. We went in the early afternoon and found ourselves in their community gymnasium. There were no lines. We confirmed our identities, stated we had pre-registered, signed the consents, and had our shots! In the large observation room, following the vaccine, volunteer members of the Ho Chunk community were vigilant about our response. Snacks and water was offered. Chairs were wiped following an exit made by a person who had waited their fifteen minutes. Small talk was made but not invasive. Everyone was masked.
In short, it was a wonderful experience!
Both my husband and I thanked our hosts and vaccinators profusely! I asked how and why they were able to provide vaccines to us. In short, the answer I was given was that because they were a sovereign nation, they could administer the vaccine to whomever they wanted after they had obtained it from the federal government. The Ho Chunk found that they had an excess of vaccine, even with prioritizing their own people. The decision was made to open vaccines to anyone in surrounding communities who wanted them!
Their reasoning? It was better for all to vaccinate as many as possible in our communities! Wow! Imagine that! This was a forward thinking community! Better for all! Yes! That’s right! All!
We returned a month later for our second dose. By that time, we could have gotten the vaccine locally. Our state had decided to open up vaccines to anyone 16 years of age and older who wanted to be immunized shortly after our first shot. But, we decided to stay with the Ho Chunk community for our second vaccine. It was well run, the staff was friendly, and philosophically I agreed with what they had done.
I wish all the vaccination stories were as successful as ours. Certainly, obtaining vaccines appointments for my parents was stressful. It took seven weeks just to get appointments for two people in their 80’s. It took me trolling the pharmacy sites every day for openings. It could have been so much easier. I can only hope we’ve all learned from this experience. And, next time the needs of our elderly are considered with pathways to success rather than meaningless verbiage.
In any case, the Ho Chunk’s message was this: