Ho-Chunk Nation made thousands of vaccine doses available to general public after tribal members were hesitant to get the shot

MADISON, Wis. — Although the opportunity just became widely known recently, Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health has been making its vaccine allotment available to the general public all month.

Their last two clinics open to anyone over 18, in Baraboo and Black River Falls, will happen this week.

Ho-Chunk Nation health leaders said they went through their tiers really fast and had thousands of doses left over.

“I don’t know if we overestimated the interest in the vaccine, however we have the capacity to vaccinate at least 1,000 people a day and we still have yet to hit that mark,” said Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health Executive Director Kiana Beaudin. “We’ve got the vaccine, it’s just getting people there to get the vaccine.”

Beaudin said there’s a higher level of hesitancy to get the vaccine among Ho-Chunk Nation tribal members. She said many are waiting to see what the long term side effects of the shot might be.

“I think mainly it’s going to be seeing more people of their ethnicity or whatever group that they’re from getting vaccine and sharing their experiences with them. We can talk about the science until we’re blue in the face, but really I think they trust the people that they know the best,” said Beaudin.

Beaudin said 43% of tribal members have been vaccinated, but she would like that number to be higher.

She said the department is having an especially hard time convincing young people to get vaccinated. According to the Ho-Chunk Nation dashboard, only 8% of tribal members 18-24 have been vaccinated.

“I think they feel like they are not going to get very sick so it’s not a big deal to them. But the biggest risk is that they would pass it to someone who would potentially become hospitalized or even pass away from the infection,” said Beaudin.

More than half of the vaccines given to Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health have been given to non-tribal members.

To pre-register for Thursday’s clinic in Black River Falls, click here.

After that clinic, the department will downsize their vaccination efforts and just focus on tribal members, their descendants and Ho-Chunk Nation employees.