OKLAHOMA CITY — Starting Monday, all Oklahomans 16 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials announced Tuesday.
An additional 500,000 Oklahomans will be eligible when the state opens vaccine availability to its final priority group on March 29, said Keith Reed, the deputy commissioner of health.
“We have all been looking forward to this day for a long time,” Reed said. “No more screening for eligibility groups, no more need for personal contemplation about whether you are eligible or should get the vaccine.”
Now that there are three vaccines available and supply is consistent and growing, state health officials will continue opening up more access points to make the vaccine more readily available, Reed said.
“As you imagine, there is a sense of relief, but there is also a sense of urgency that we still have to continue forward momentum,” he said. “Keep in mind because we’re opening up to everyone doesn’t mean that there’s not a sense of urgency to get people vaccinated. We’re opening it up because we want as many people vaccinated as possible. We want to stop transmission of COVID in the community.”
He said the state’s strategy has always been to move to the next priority group before they start having a lot of issues with uptake and hesitancy in the previous groups. Reed said health officials want to maintain a steady demand and always have someone available to be vaccinated.
“At some point, uptake or vaccine hesitancy is going to be a concern. We know that because the reality is the more people we get vaccinated, the better chance we have of shutting down COVID for good and really putting it behind us,” he said.
As of Tuesday morning, Reed said 27.3% of Oklahomans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. He said 35.8% of Oklahomans 18 and older have received a dose.
More than 586,000 have completed the full series.
He said expanding eligibility to every Oklahoman simplifies things a great deal because it makes it easier for the public and health officials to know when they’re eligible.
Reed said he encourages everyone to schedule an appointment as soon as possible so that the virus doesn’t have time to resurge.
“This is a safe way that people can contribute to getting the pandemic behind us, to getting our summer back, to getting back to some sense of normalcy,” he said. “I think we all crave that. We all want that.”
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.