Vaccines

Mike Simons / Tulsa World pool photo

While federal officials continue debating who should receive COVID booster shots, Oklahoma health officials say they are ready to give them as soon as the green light is given.

An FDA advisory panel last week recommended third Pfizer shots for Americans 65 and up, six months after their second doses, but it was overwhelmingly against boosters for younger people because of a lack of data indicating a strong benefit. The same panel may also recommend the boosters for people at higher risk of infection because of their jobs, like health care providers and teachers.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor has joined 23 other state attorneys general threatening legal action over a new federal mandate for some employers to require weekly COVID testing or vaccination.

A letter dated Thursday calls President Joe Biden’s plan to order the Department of Labor to issue an emergency rule covering employers with at least 100 workers "disastrous and counterproductive."

Oklahoma construction firms are 33% more likely than the country as a whole to say a worker shortage is making projects take longer to finish, and vaccine hesitancy appears not to be helping matters for anyone.

According to a 2021 workforce survey by Associated General Contractors of America, 81% of Oklahoma firms responding said a labor shortage is holding up projects, compared to 61% of firms nationwide.

Nationally and in Oklahoma, more than 80% of companies said they are having a hard time finding laborers, truck drivers and a variety of trades.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Updated Sept. 1, 6:15 p.m.

Tulsa City Councilors on Wednesday approved a proposal to spend almost $1.8 million in federal virus relief program on a campaign encouraging employees to get vaccinated.

The city’s American Rescue Plan Working group pitched giving employees who are or who get fully vaccinated $250. They must do so by Oct. 15 to receive the stipend

Workers in departments that hit a 70% vaccination rate can receive another $250 beginning Nov. 1.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit is studying a policy to encourage employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

General Manager Ted Rieck told the transit board of trustees on Tuesday they’ve hit a plateau at around 50% vaccinated. 

"In order to protect the employees as well as the riders, we want to get to a higher percentage compliance. So, we are going to study — we're certainly not ready to make a decision yet — whether to require either a vaccination or weekly testing of employees," Rieck said.

Oklahoma Doctors, Tired But Not Deterred, Push To Get Patients Vaccinated

Aug 27, 2021
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Dr. Douglas Drevets recalls feeling a burst of optimism when the year began. 

The state’s long and deadly battle against COVID-19 seemed to have turned a corner as Oklahoma emerged as one of the top states in vaccinating eligible populations.

But that wouldn’t last long. 

CVS Health

The City of Tulsa is considering putting federal virus relief money toward vaccination incentives, but only for city employees.

A working group is set to propose a $250 payment to employees who have been fully vaccinated or who get fully vaccinated. Employees in departments where 70% of workers get vaccinated would get an additional $250.

The incentives would be paid for from the city’s nearly $88 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan.

Pool photo by Mike Simons / Tulsa World

The Oklahoma State Department of health is preparing to offer booster shots of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines starting Sept. 20, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Boosters would come eight months after a person receives their second dose. So, people who completed a series in January would be up first, meaning the state will follow the same rough schedule of giving shots to older and at more at-risk people first.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Nursing homes in Oklahoma and across the nation are in danger of losing staff or funding following pressure from the Biden administration spurred by a resurgence of COVID-19.

Nursing homes that refuse to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their staff will lose Medicare and Medicaid funding. 

Oklahoma Republican Party

At a Saturday rally inside the Oklahoma State Capitol opposing COVID-19 public health measures, the Oklahoma Republican Party continued its now-familiar messaging comparing pandemic-related policies to Nazi Germany and its atrocities.

The party promoted the rally, attended by several hundred demonstrators, with the hashtags #NoMasks, #NoLockdowns and #NoVaccineMandates.

City of Tulsa

Leaders from several Tulsa health care systems joined with local officials Friday for an update on the increasingly precarious COVID-19 situation in the area, calling on residents to do their part in helping stem the rising tide of largely preventable hospitalizations and suffering stemming from low vaccination rates and the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The White House

Addressing reporters from the White House Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden pleaded with governors of states, like Oklahoma, that have prohibited schools from requiring masks to mitigate COVID-19 to do more to help the nation in its fight against the coronavirus. 

"As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates, but also ban them in their school districts, even for young children who cannot get vaccinated," Biden said. "Some states have even banned businesses and universities from requiring workers and students to be masked or vaccinated...  What are we doing?"

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools officials say that while they recognize they're legally prohibited from requiring masks for students, faculty and staff when the school year begins this month, they do 'expect' individuals to follow federal and expert guidance to keep each other safe.

Oklahoma Children's Hospital OU Health

Pediatricians at OU Health are backing recommendations for universal masking in the classroom and kids 12 and up being vaccinated against COVID-19, ahead of a back-to-school season taking place against the backdrop of a surge in infections in Oklahoma.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Just over four months ago, with the TV cameras running, Gov. Kevin Stitt sat down to get his single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from a state health department nurse.

Oklahoma Republican Party

The Oklahoma Republican Party is refusing to back down from an offensive Facebook post made Friday in which they compared private employers requiring their workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.

The Friday post, which suggested unvaccinated Americans are being treated the same as the Jews murdered during the Holocaust, drew rebukes from Jewish groups and some Republicans, but party officials not only left it online but attempted to use it to raise funds.

U.S. Department of Defense

The head of the Tulsa Health Department warns local COVID infections are increasing exponentially.

THD Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart told city councilors on Wednesday new cases roughly doubled every week this month, driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus. While Tulsa County has the state’s third-highest vaccination rate, Dart said it’s still well below what’s needed to suppress the highly contagious variant.

Ascension St. John

Along with other Ascension facilities in its multistate network, Ascension St. John Medical Center in Tulsa will require its employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, the first major hospital system in Tulsa to do so.

What is the Delta Variant, and how is it related to the novel Coronavirus? What exactly do we know about the rapid spread of the Delta Variant now happening in Tulsa County -- and across our state? And what's the relationship between this rate of spreading and Oklahoma's relatively low vaccination rate? Are there other Coronavirus variants out there -- either here in the US or worldwide? And when will American kids under the age of 12 be allowed to get vaxxed? Our guests on ST Medical Monday are Dr. Bruce Dart, Executive Director of the Tulsa Health Department, and Dr.

Facebook / Rep. Frank Lucas

Calling it the responsibility of Oklahomans to protect their communities from COVID-19, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) on Monday urged those not yet vaccinated to do so now.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday that despite climbing COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma amid spread of the more-transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, he has no plans to declare a public health emergency, one of the necessary steps under a new state law that would allow schools to require students wear masks upon their return to the classroom next month.

"This is about personal responsibility, this is about freedoms," Stitt said, echoing the messaging he has leaned on throughout the pandemic.  

Mike Simons / Tulsa World pool photo

Updated July 23, 2:20 p.m. with information about funding for Oklahoma.

As the Delta variant pushes a rise in COVID-19 cases, the White House is sending $100 million to rural health centers to help bring up low vaccination rates.

Oklahoma has 34 rural health clinics that will receive a total of nearly $1.7 million.

Facebook / Rep. Sean Roberts

A group of 20 Republican state legislators on Thursday issued a letter to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, asking for an executive order banning hospitals in the state from requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"If we do not protect the individual’s right to choose what goes in their body, we no longer live in a free society," reads the letter from the group, led by Hominy Rep. Sean Roberts.

With more hospital systems in the state announcing requirements for their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to keep their jobs, Oklahoma's top health official said Friday he does not support or oppose such policies.

"We're supporting vaccination," state health commissioner Dr. Lance Frye told reporters during a virtual press briefing Friday, asked whether he supported recent announcements from Mercy, OU Health and SSM in Oklahoma City that they would require proof of vaccination from their staff members.

CDC

Cases of COVID-19 are rising in Oklahoma and Tulsa County. Public health officials say it’s likely because of the Delta variant.

 

Tulsa Health Department

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Tuesday it will be able to extend the shelf life of 75,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that were set to expire at the end of this month due to a change in federal guidance.

"The 75,000 doses anticipated to expire in June will now be available for administration until August 7, with some of the lots expiring July 24," the department said in a news release.

New Life Ranch

A Green Country Christian summer camp is on hold and changing its public health protocols following a COVID-19 outbreak.

At least 25 staff members at the New Life Ranch Flint Valley camp in Colcord have tested positive, according to camp officials.

One camper at New Life Ranch's Frontier Cove camp in Adair has also tested positive, the camp said.

OU Health

A top doctor at OU Health said Thursday that their hospital system had no COVID-19 patients in their intensive care units one day this week.

"Which was the first time in a long time we had nobody in our ICUs with COVID-19," Dr. Dale Bratzler said in a video update. 

Bratzler also shared that after a winter season with an extremely low number of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), diagnoses of the latter are on the upswing among children.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

A top state health official said Thursday that the Oklahoma State Department of Health is not giving up on improving COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state after weeks of placing near the bottom in national rankings.

The Biden administration on Wednesday declared June a "national month of action" for COVID vaccination, with a goal of getting 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. As of Tuesday, that number was 64% nationally and 54% in Oklahoma, which has for weeks been consistently placing near the bottom of national rankings.

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