TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. hopes to increase the number of vaccinated tribal government employees by rewarding those vaccinated with a $300 incentive.

Chief Hoskin recently signed an executive order, effective May 25, providing a vaccine reward and incentive program for the 4,300 tribal government employees. The executive order does not apply to Cherokee Nation Businesses or any other entities. However, all Cherokee Nation entities may develop plans and implement a comparable reward and incentive program for their respective workforces.

“Currently about 40 percent of our Cherokee Nation employee base is vaccinated and we know we need that figure to increase to 70 percent to reach herd immunity,” Chief Hoskin said. “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.”

Herd immunity can be reached when enough people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and have developed protective antibodies against future infection.

New employees and those in job training programs will be required to be fully vaccinated within 45 days under the executive order. Current employees are encouraged to be vaccinated, and those not vaccinated will be restricted from work travel on behalf of the Cherokee Nation.

“We are encouraging our employees to get vaccinated and we are finding more ways to encourage that through incentives,” Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said. “We understand there are some exceptions for medical necessity and religious reasons, but we hope this order will help us reach our goals.”

The Cherokee Nation expects to issue the $300 incentives in June to those Cherokee Nation government employees getting a vaccine and all those formerly vaccinated.

Employees will receive more information on the vaccine reward and incentive program through the Cherokee Nation Human Resources Department.

The executive order on the vaccine reward and incentive program will continue through the end of calendar year 2021.

Since mid-December the Cherokee Nation has administered more than 60,000 vaccines.

The Cherokee Nation has had 15,200 tribal citizens test positive for COVID-19 and 107 deaths, including about 50 Cherokee speakers, through its Cherokee Nation health system.