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Oklahoma's average of new COVID cases has nearly doubled since Thanksgiving. Health officials again urge people to get vaccinated

Oklahoma State Department of Health

State health officials say there’s still time for Oklahomans to get a COVID-19 vaccine and have some level of protection going into what’s expected to be a busy holiday season.

As of Friday, the seven-day average of new cases is up 93% since the day before Thanksgiving. Hospitalizations are up nearly 50% in the past month.

To date, 52% of Oklahomans are vaccinated.

As recently as this week, top officials cast doubt on the vaccines. At a Tuesday news conference, Attorney General John O’Connor said the science on them “isn’t really clear.” Interim State Health Commissioner Keith Reed said all three vaccines are based on years of research and went through a rigorous authorization process.

"We're still pushing that this vaccine is the best method to go out and prevent serious illness from COVID-19, and we continue to encourage Oklahomans to seek vaccination," Reed said.

"We also have authorized booster doses now to provide Oklahomans with additional protection. With new variants continuing to develop and cold weather setting in, now is a great time to consider a booster dose," said Oklahoma State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gitanjali Pai.

Pfizer recently reported a third dose of its vaccine significantly increases protection against the omicron variant. Omicron has not been detected in Oklahoma yet, but experts believe it is likely already present.

Pfizer boosters have also recently been approved for 16- and 17-year-olds.

"`We have the supply in place, we have access points across the state. We're ready to go ahead and initiate that plan immediately," Reed said about when older teens can get Pfizer boosters.

While 20% of reported COVID cases in the past month were breakthrough infections, less than 1% of breakthrough cases ended up in the hospital. Meanwhile, 80% of COVID patients in Oklahoma hospitals are unvaccinated.

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.