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Health Experts Continue Pushing Oklahomans To Get COVID Shots As Vaccination Rate Keeps Dipping

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Health experts continue to urge Oklahomans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially now that increased genetic sequencing has revealed additional variants.

The B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 variants that originated in India have been identified in Oklahoma. The country is coming out of a devastating mid-spring surge. 

"The hard thing is, is that we already know that it is potentially reduced efficacy in regards to monoclonal antibody treatment and the actual vaccine in and of itself," OSU Project ECHO faculty member Dr. Jennifer Clark said about the two recently identified variants.

Those variants join several others already identified in Oklahoma, including the B.1.1.7 strain that originated in the United Kingdom and the P.1 strain from Brazil. Those variants are known to be more transmissible and more likely to cause severe illness, but vaccines have proven effective against them.

The B.1.1.7 variant accounts for 32% of samples sequenced in Oklahoma since Jan. 1.

While almost 60% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, Oklahoma is roughly 15 percentage points behind. The state has set a goal of 3 million people getting at least their first doses by Memorial Day. As of Wednesday, 1.3 million Oklahomans had done so.

"We’re below — kind of significantly below — the national average, and again, the goal is to get 3 million doses by Memorial Day, those prime doses in," Clark said. "The big thing is, is that we have a whole population of people that can contribute to that now. So, 12- to 15-year-olds have been approved."

Oklahoma has among the lowest new case rates in the U.S. right now, but Clark said she’s concerned about infections creeping up in surrounding states and cases increasing among adults 35 to 44 years old for a third straight week.

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