The Oklahoma State Department of Health is getting ready to handle increased COVID vaccine shipments.
New federal guidance under Operation Warp Speed means in two weeks, states will get allocations based on how quickly they’re vaccinating people. Deputy State Health Commissioner Keith Reed says as of mid-day Wednesday, 4.6% of Oklahoma’s population had received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, among the highest rates in the U.S.
"This updated plan means vaccine doses will be available at a level they haven’t been so far. For Oklahoma, this means the opportunity to open up more channels for administration and access points to the vaccines, such as utilizing pharmacies, community health centers, mass vaccination sites like we’re doing for the PODS," Reed said.
PODS stands for points of distribution sites, which are under the control of local health departments. There are more than 1,300 providers currently signed up to receive vaccine allocations from the state, but they have not received any so far due to limited supplies.
Reed said getting doses to pharmacies and other entities that have signed up to be vaccine providers will help expand access, letting the state work through priority groups faster and vaccinate as many people as possible.
"You get your vaccination, for you, it’s about individual protection. That is critically important. But from a public health standpoint, when we vaccinate a lot of people, we are able to interrupt the transmission of the disease from person to person," Reed said.
For now, COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available to health care workers, first responders, and Oklahomans 65 or older, and they can only be made through the vaccinate.oklahoma.gov portal. Vaccine providers like doctor’s offices will do their own scheduling.
Reed also said Wednesday the state anticipates more than 48,000 first and second doses of vaccine next week.