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Oklahoma Experts Weigh In On New CDC COVID Guidance For Fully Vaccinated People

OU Health
File photo of Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Health chief COVID officer, from a briefing on Feb. 18.

Oklahoma public health experts and officials weighed in Tuesday with their thoughts on the new COVID-19 guidance for fully vaccinated people from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

"I have to tell you that I looked at social media and a lot of the news outlets that came out and said, 'Okay, you're fully vaccinated: You can get together without a mask.' That's not exactly what CDC said," said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Health chief COVID officer, on a virtual press briefing hosted by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition.

The guidance, released Monday, says Americans who are fully vaccinated -- defined as two weeks after the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the one-dose Johnson and Johnson Janssen vaccine -- should feel safe gathering indoors without masks. It also says individuals who are fully vaccinated can visit unvaccinated individuals from a single household, such as a visit to relatives.

Bratzler said vaccinated grandparents, then, should feel comfortable visiting their unvaccinated grandchildren. 

"Of course, kids can't get the vaccines at this point, but if both grandparents have been vaccinated they should be relatively safe," Bratzler said.

Dr. Stan Schwartz, CEO of WellOK, The Northeastern Oklahoma Business Coalition on Health, and Chief Medical Officer at ZERO.health, agreed with that interpretation.

"It does look like that particular exception for gathering with a small family was intended for grandma and grandpa," Schwartz said. 

Schwartz said the guidance left one thing out, which he saw as a potential cause for concern moving forward.

"One thing that was characteristically missing from the CDC guidance was what to do with the workplace," Schwartz said. "And I think that was a purposeful omission, and I think one danger is going to be stretching these guidelines to accommodate needs in the workplace, when, in fact, nothing has changed about recommendations at work."

Bratzler said he believes small office settings with just a few people, all of whom had been vaccinated, could be done "quite safely."

"I just think we need to be cautious," Bratzler said, "because when we're out in public we're still going to encounter people who haven't been vaccinated, and there's no way, I think, in most settings to prove whether somebody's been vaccinated our not." (Bratzler noted that counterfeiters have already begun offering forged CDC vaccination cards.)

Bratzler said he agreed with the CDC's recommendation that medium- and large-sized gatherings still be avoided by all. 

Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, described the guidance as a "game changer."

"These guidelines were most welcome news for many of us, and yet another great reason we should get vaccinated," Monks said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health Tuesday opened vaccine eligibility to the vast majority of Oklahoma adults. According to CDC, as of Tuesday afternoon, Oklahoma ranked 7th nationally for vaccine doses administered per 100,000 residents.

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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