CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The Catawba Indian Nation opened COVID-19 vaccinations to members 18-years-old and older. The tribe is a federally recognized tribe, meaning they can govern themselves and, with few exceptions, they have the same powers as federal and state governments.

“Perfect!” said Rock Hill resident Gloria Plyler. “I filled out the forms yesterday, and they called me this morning to set up a time.”

Most patients at the Indian Health Service Catawba Service Unit today were older, and were surprised to hear the doses are now available to younger age groups.

“I think it’s good,” said Douglas Allen Brown. “I think everybody ought to get the shot.”

Katie Hewitt heard the news from her neighbors. She’s not a Native American, but her husband is.

“I told him about it, and he made an appointment,” Hewitt said, “and he maybe got in four days later.”

She and her kids will have to wait, but she’s hopeful soon they’ll have access to the shot.

“I love my kids, but I would love for them to get that school experience again,” Hewitt said.

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The Catawba Tribe didn’t say the reason behind the decision to open up the availability of the vaccine. According to the CDC, data from 14 states revealed the COVID-19 mortality rate among American Indians was 1.9 times higher than that for white people.

“They’re very susceptible to a lot of the things that are going on out there,” Plyler said.

Any Native American planning to get a shot needs to bring their trial ID card and their insurance card, although the vaccine is still free.