Oklahoma health officials outline coronavirus vaccine plans

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The first shipment of a coronavirus vaccine is expected in Oklahoma in about 10 days with health care workers and long term care providers and residents receiving the first doses, state health commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said Thursday.

“People that work on the front lines will be in the first phase of the vaccine distribution group such as health care workers, long term care care and residents and public health staff who will be on the front lines helping do the testing and providing vaccine,” Frye said. “We anticipate the general public will have access in the first part of 2021.”

Federal health officials are also working to provide vaccine to long-term care facility staff and residents, according to deputy health commissioner Keith Reed.

Frye said emergency use approval of the vaccine developed by Pfizer is expected on Dec. 11 and 33,000 initial doses should arrive in Oklahoma two or three days later with shipment of a second, required, dose expected about three weeks later.

Emergency approval of a similar vaccine developed by Moderna is also anticipated and about 10,000 doses are expected by the end of December, Frye said.

The plan follows a draft distribution plan released by the health department in October and places first responders such as paramedics, police officers and firefighters in addition to the elderly and those at high risk in the second phase of people to receive the vaccine.

School students teachers and staff are in the third phase of those to receive the vaccine, then the general public.

The priority list was developed by a committee using guidelines provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Frye said.

The vaccine will be stored in at least 11 facilities around the state for distribution, according to Reed.

Frye said he is enthusiastic that both vaccines will provide a return to a semblance of normalcy in the state, but warned that the virus has not been eradicated.

“It may mutate and change just like the flu does, we may have different strains that come up that might require some tweaking of the vaccination and re-vaccinating just like the flu,” Frye said. “But no doubt this vaccine is going to … make things a lot better.”

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Oklahoma rose from 2,727 per day on Nov. 18 to 2,571 on Monday and the positivity increased from 15.8% to 16.34% during the same time, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The data showed the seven-day rolling average of deaths increased from just more than 14 to nearly 19 per day.

The state health department on Thursday reported an additional 1,707 virus cases and 24 more deaths for totals of 204,048 cases and 1,836 deaths since the pandemic began in March. There were 1,734 people hospitalized due to the virus.

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