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Health Department Says Area Vaccination Efforts 'Ramping Up'

Tulsa Health Department
Drive-through COVID-19 vaccinations on the first day of administration of vaccines to health care workers in Tulsa County on Dec. 15.

The Tulsa Health Department said during a virtual press conference Thursday morning that efforts to get nearly 14,000 "tier one" frontline health care workers vaccinated against COVID-19 are picking up steam.

"Based on the preliminary numbers that I've received, between the two of us we've administered at least 800 doses in Tulsa County as of yesterday (Wednesday)," said Alicia Etgen, manager of emergency preparedness and response at THD, referring to the department and Saint Francis Health System, the other entity involved in initial vaccine distribution.

"Both of us are ramping up today to hopefully continue to do more," Etgen said. "So we are moving forward and it's exciting."

Etgen said demand has exceeded expectations.

"We didn't think that the hospitals would be using all of their allotted vaccine," Etgen said, but "every single one of them has a list of names equal to or greater than the number of vaccines they've been allocated. So we've had a very robust response from the health care workers in Tulsa."

THD Director Dr. Bruce Dart said the response from providers has been positive and is increasing still.

"It's been great to see the interest in this. I think we're getting more and more not only health care workers but the public interested in taking this vaccine as well," Dart said.

Etgen said she's hopeful Moderna's vaccine, currently under federal review, could soon be approved and arrive in Tulsa as soon as next week. 

"We do not know how many doses would be allotted to us in that, but we're hopeful that it would give us more than what we have now, which is all we can ask for at this point," she said.

Kelly VanBuskirk, THD's COVID-19 incident commander, said it's important Tulsans continue to adhere to public health guidelines, as the arrival of the vaccine is only the first step toward ending the pandemic.

"We're so close. We always talk about how this is not a sprint, it's a marathon. We're on that last leg of the marathon, but the last leg of the marathon is the toughest part of the marathon," VanBuskirk said.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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