Oklahoma vaccine photo

Erica Arrocha injects Hannah White with the COVID-19 vaccine Monday in Oklahoma City while Dr. Lance Frye, the interim commissioner of health, looks on. White, an Integris emergency room nurse, became the first Oklahoman outside a clinical trial to receive the vaccine.

After battling with COVID-19 for the majority of 2020, local health departments are now prepping to get vaccinations out in order to “protect community health.”

Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced Tuesday the plan to transition into Phase 2 of the vaccination distribution. Phase 2 includes COVID-19 vaccinations for first responders and healthcare workers outside of the inpatient setting.

To accomplish this, OSDH is setting up “PODS” or “Points of Dispensing sites” across Oklahoma to make vaccinations available, which Dr. Lance Frye, Oklahoma State Commissioner of Health, said will help with efficient distribution.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to expand our vaccine distribution efforts in Oklahoma,” Frye said. “PODS will help us provide more efficient access points as we open up the vaccine to larger populations as we continue to gradually move into Phase 2 priority groups and beyond.”

Those first eligible to receive the vaccination include first responders and healthcare workers who don’t work in hospital settings. Then, Oklahomans 65 and older will also be able to receive the vaccine in coming weeks. The vaccine events are not open to the public at this time.

Mendy Spohn, Regional Administrative Director for Oklahoma State Department of Health District 8, which includes Carter, Garvin, Jefferson, Johnston, Love, Marshall, Pontotoc and Stephens Counties, said those with the health department are ready to begin providing the vaccine to community members.

“We are viewing this as our light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic,” Spohn said. “We urge all eligible Oklahomans to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to them.”

One of the limited vaccination events will set up from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 31 at the National Guard Armory in Ardmore, located at 3245 Prairie Valley Rd, Ardmore. The vaccination event is open to first responders and healthcare workers, and anyone from Phase 1 can attend, as well as first responders and healthcare providers from Phase 2.

Phase 1 vaccinations include long term care residents and staff, such as those who are in nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, assisted living, intermediate care facilities or group homes. Phase 1 also includes health care workers providing direct inpatient care, such as those who work in emergency rooms, hospitals, intensive care units and other workers in the hospital “inherent to the care of patients as determined by the inpatient facility,” such as janitorial or food service.

Also under Phase 1 are those with public health staff conducting front line COVID-19 pandemic mitigation and control activities and those who are Oklahoma state licensed emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Under Phase 2, first responders, paid and unpaid, and support staff are included, along with fire departments, law enforcement, dispatchers, homeland security, emergency managers, medical examiners and those in the court system.

Phase 2 also includes healthcare workers and support staff, such as:

• Workers providing care primarily for adults 65 and older, and/or adults of any age with comorbidities. 

• Workers directly treating or screening for COVID-19.

• Workers in high-risk outpatient settings such as those performing aerosolized procedures or close examinations of the nasopharynx, dentists, speech-language pathologists, optometry/ophthalmology, chiropractors, etc. 

• Workers in urgent care, outpatient facilities, primary care, federally qualified health centers, community health centers, rural health centers, pharmacies (not involved in the federal allocation plan), home health, hospice, rehabilitation services, occupational/physical therapy, etc. 

• Death care workers, involved in the handling of deceased COVID-19 persons. 

• Home health, hospice, surgery centers, and mental health providers.

According to information obtained from District 8 of OSDH, plans include conducting weekly, ongoing vaccine events in locations such as Ardmore, Ada and Duncan while the vaccine rollout goes through the four phases of distribution.

Stephens County Fairgrounds and Expo Center will play host to a vaccine setup on Jan. 7, 2021, according to Commissioner Russell Morgan, who announced it during a recent Stephens County Commissioner meeting.

The north end of the big arena is where the vaccinations will take place, which allows room to social distance, according to Morgan. He said first it would be first responders and possibly some of the nurses who haven’t received the vaccine yet, but eventually will move into a four-phase approach to allow for more vaccinations.

More details on the event in Duncan have not yet been announced, but will be in coming days. OSDH also states they will set up smaller events and strike teams in all District 8 counties as “supplies and staffing allow.” There are no waiting lists or scheduled appointments yet, though OSDH expects to have an electronic scheduling tool available soon. 

“We definitely have a sense of urgency based on what our medical partners are seeing in the hospitals due to this virus.” Spohn said. “Please help our healthcare system by continuing to wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance as these are still key components of minimizing the spread of COVID at this time.” 

All further information will publish in The Duncan Banner as it becomes available and OSDH will also make announcements available on each County Health Department’s Facebook page.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit oklahoma.gov/covid19/vaccine-information or call 211. 

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