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State Health Officials Hope App Will Hasten COVID Vaccine Administration

CVS Health

The Oklahoma State Department of Health plans to launch an app on Thursday to help people find when and where they can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

That comes on the heels of an announcement the agency will set up points of dispensing sites, or PODS, across the state to help administer shots to people in phase two of the vaccination plan.

As of Saturday, the state reported receiving 175,000 doses of vaccine and administering fewer than 50,500, mostly to health care workers in phase one.

"As you’ve seen up to this point, it’s been a little slower. It’s kind of to be expected when you are dealing with specific populations, and, again, now that we’re able to open it up to broader groups, we can create the type of environment we need in order to move through vaccine very quickly," said Deputy State Health Commissioner Keith Reed.

The app will screen people for eligibility and help them schedule an appointment. First responders and adults over 65 are first in line for phase two.

Reed said the app is intended to avoid a free-for-all with people tracking down their own vaccines and jumping the line.

"That’s not the system we’re setting up. We do not feel like that’s an efficient way to do this. I think it also is not fair to Oklahomans to establish that as an expectation that that’s a method by which they could get a vaccine," Reed said.

The app will only be for COVID vaccines given by state and county health departments. Hospitals and other providers receiving shares of the vaccine will have their own systems. That could potentially alleviate confusion at the local level on how vaccine distribution is supposed to go.

Tulsa Area Emergency Manager Joe Kralicek told county commissioners about some problems at a Monday meeting.

"Part of the issue in the clarity and lack of clarity has to do with the fact that much of this plan is being dictated and run through the governor’s office. And so, communications have not necessarily been flowing as well as had been hoped," Kralicek said.

Another complicating factor: State health department officials say the federal government tells them the number of doses they'll receive a week out, limiting long-range planning.

Officials said Monday when the app launches, 211 and health department phone lines will still be available to help answer COVID vaccination questions. They acknowledged the app may not be ideal for older Oklahomans now in line for vaccinations or those living in rural areas without reliable internet access.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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