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Now Eligible, State Health Department Asks Government, Community Leaders: 'Step Up' & Get Vaccinated

Oklahoma State Department of Health
Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye receives his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Tulsa's St. Francis Hospital in December.

With COVID-19 vaccine eligibility now expanded to the vast majority of Oklahoma adults, the state health department is urging everyone who qualifies -- including community and government leaders -- to seek out their shots as soon as possible. 

"We do want to encourage people to step up and get the vaccine," said Oklahoma State Department of Health Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed during a Monday press briefing. "We get numerous reports from people that are saying, 'I want to get vaccinated but I want to make sure that I don't take the place of somebody else who may need it more than me.' And that is so appreciated, that attitude of taking care of your neighbors and stepping aside for others, but we're reaching a point now where we need to get a lot of people vaccinated."

"That means everybody needs to step up. And yes, we encourage community leaders: Step up and set the example for your particular communities," Reed said. "This is the best way we have to stop COVID in individual communities, in the state and in the nation."

Included in the roughly 2.5 million Oklahomans newly eligible under phases two and three of the state's vaccine plan are senior state, county and city leaders and officials. The health department says those leaders receiving the vaccine can decrease hesitancy and increase acceptance and confidence among the community-at-large.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye received his vaccine in front of press in December at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, saying in a statement, "Today, it’s my turn, and I’m excited to help Oklahoma move one step closer toward a healthier future.”

In January, Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, received his shot at a THD site after qualifying through the state's vaccine portal, with reporters provided footage afterwards.

“We know that this vaccine is safe and effective, and we know that COVID can be a very serious illness for many people – and I don’t want to get sick. I encourage everybody to also get this vaccine,” Dart said at the time. “I lost my mother in February. I’ve seen my father once since then, because of COVID. I got this vaccine so I can actually go and hug my dad.”

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum told News on 6 on Tuesday morning that he had scheduled his vaccine for Friday at Expo Square.

"I got my notification from the Oklahoma little sign-up website on Sunday night, and I'm all signed up for Friday out there at the fairgrounds," Bynum said. "So, very excited to do that, and I really encourage everybody -- that's something all of us can do to help wipe out this virus, is get that vaccine, and I'm excited to do my part."

Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said Tuesday she had received her vaccine and encourages county residents to follow suit.

"Getting the shot will help you and all of us get our lives back to normal," Keith said. "Rolling up your sleeve is making a difference … the numbers are dropping, a clear indication that it’s working.  I’m grateful to have both my shots and looking forward to gathering with both family and friends who are also vaccinated."

A Tulsa County spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Commissioner Ron Peters had also been vaccinated. 

A Tulsa Public Schools spokesperson said Tuesday that Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist was scheduled to receive her first dose Wednesday.

Around the state, Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce tweeted that he received his first dose Monday. 

"Please don’t wait," Joyce said. "Even if you feel relatively low risk and you want to make sure higher risk people have access to the vaccine, it’s still best to get your shot as soon as you are eligible. When we’re all vaccinated, we all help protect each other."

Reached for comment Tuesday, Norman Mayor Breea Clark said she had scheduled a vaccine appointment for Wednesday.

"Admittedly, I have been dragging my feet, because I am 37 and in the best health of my life. It didn’t feel right to take a vaccine from some who truly needed it. However, the rollout has been fantastic in our community and around the state, and I am excited to get it done!" Clark said.

A spokesperson for Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said he had not yet scheduled a dose but plans to as soon as possible: "Mayor Holt will be getting vaccinated. He’s very much looking forward to it!"

The office of Mayor Craig Thurmond of Broken Arrow did not respond to an inquiry about whether he had yet been vaccinated or planned to be.

A Cherokee Nation spokesperson on Tuesday confirmed Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. had been vaccinated.

Reached Monday, a spokesperson for Gov. Kevin Stitt said he was still "waiting his turn."

"I’m not his doctor (obviously) so I have no information on upcoming medical appointments. But as the governor has said publicly a few times, he will get the vaccine," the governor's aide said in an email, adding that when he does it is not likely to be a press event. 

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.