TAHLEQUAH – While the number of active COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma drop, Dr. Roger Montgomery, Cherokee Nation Health Services executive medical director, said with the state’s current vaccination numbers a surge in COVID cases could be on the horizon.

“Fortunately, the numbers of cases have been very low and continue to slowly fall, but we have been concerned that, that level of vaccination would put us at risk for a surge in cases this month or next,” said Montgomery.

According to CN health officials, as of May 21, based on Oklahoma’s numbers, more than 1.2 million people have been fully vaccinated while more than 1.6 million have received a first dose.

Montgomery said receiving both doses, if receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, is optimal.

“If you’re going to take a long trip, do you fill your car tank up halfway? Or do you fill it up fully? You get a full tank of gas,” he said. “The evidence is there that the vaccines, the Pfizer and the Moderna are a two-vaccine series, and so getting just one dose just is like getting a half a tank of gas.”

Montgomery said receiving the second dose of the vaccine provides more “long-lasting immunity.”

“What we don’t know yet but the evidence suggests is that second dose provides more…long-lasting immunity,” he said. “There’s something that goes on in the body with regards to what’s called cellular immunity after that second dose that’s enhanced by that second dose that will likely lead to more long-lasting immunity than just a single dose.”

Montgomery also said the tribe has been more successful than the general population getting people vaccinated.

“Some of our counties within Cherokee Nation still have very low (vaccination) percentages, which I think puts our tribal citizens at risk because of those people who aren’t vaccinated,” he said. “I think Cherokee Nation’s done a great job but we can always do better and again I think…population as a whole could do much better. We’ve got a ways to go.”

CN health officials said vaccinations are available to anyone regardless if they are CN citizens or of where they live. To schedule a vaccination, call 1-539-234-4099. For information, visit https://health.cherokee.org/.