Happy New Year, Oklahoma! There is light up ahead, at the end of this very long tunnel we have been traveling since last March.
The first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations began last month with distribution to health care workers, long-term care residents, EMTs and paramedics, and public health staff. The estimated 150,000 Oklahomans in these categories are receiving their first of two doses with an expectation that Phase 1 will be complete this month.
Then, Phase 2 can begin, which includes first responders (paid and unpaid including fire departments, law enforcement, emergency managers, homeland security, and medical examiners). Others in this group include:
Health care workers providing COVID outpatient care;
Adults age 65 and older, and those with specific health conditions increasing the risk from a COVID infection;
Teachers and staff in Pre-K through 12 school settings;
Staff and residents in congregate locations (homeless shelters, jails, prisons, certain manufacturing facilities providing for the food supply, etc.), and
Public health staff supporting front line efforts.
This phase will vaccinate about 800,000 Oklahomans.
Phase 3 will begin when future federal vaccine production outlays are known. That round will include all other educational personnel, including teachers, students, as well as residents and administrative staff outside of those covered in Phase 2. This means those working in or attending childcare facilities, colleges and universities, career technology centers, and other post-secondary settings.
This phase also will cover critical infrastructure personnel for essential business/industry employees as specified by Governor Stitt through executive order. The estimated universe for Phase 3 is about 2.4 million Oklahomans.
Phase 4 will cover adult Oklahomans not previously allowed in an earlier phase; that will provide vaccinations for 555,200 Oklahomans, but no children yet. Pfizer’s vaccine has been authorized for ages 16 and up. Moderna’s vaccine is currently authorized for ages 18 and up. Both companies have begun clinical trials for younger kids, so a full pediatric vaccine likely will be available by late 2021.
For a list of county health departments providing information about the vaccinations online, go to https://oica.org/covid or call 411 to locate your county health department’s contact information, or call 211 for other types of health-related information. Oklahoma currently has 68 county health departments and two independent city-county health departments serving the state’s 77 counties. We will update the list of locations as we receive information that can assist you.
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given at no cost. However, vaccination providers may be able to charge administration fees for giving the shot, billed to insurance or through CARES Act funding for the uninsured.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet. The MASK Coalition, a group of several school, health, and advocacy organizations, encourages you to please continue to wear your masks and remain socially distant, and also continue to sufficiently wash your hands even after the vaccination. It takes time for it to take effect and you do not want to grow ill after making it this far!
If we want to achieve the goal of getting kids back in schools, the only way to do this will be to continue these practices, ensure those around us are doing the same, and achieve the goal of at least 70% combined recovery/vaccination rate for the population to beat this pandemic with herd immunity. Working together, we can make 2021 the year we beat COVID-19.