State expected to receive vaccine in early December

Dr. David Chansolme

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma should begin receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in early December, public health officials said Tuesday.

But with only a limited supply expected to arrive, the first rounds of shots will be reserved for health care workers and the most vulnerable, said Dr. Lance Frye, the interim state health commissioner.

Frye said health officials don’t know how many doses to expect, but they’re tentatively planning for between 2,000 to 20,000 initial COVID-19 doses during the “very limited” first phase.

Dr. David Chansolme, Integris Health medical director of infection prevention, said Oklahoma is expecting to receive doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. The company said no serious safety concerns were reported with the vaccine, which proved to be more than 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 in about 44,000 trial participants, officials said this week.

The company said it hopes to quickly receive emergency Food and Drug Administration authorization so the two-dose vaccine can be widely administered. Chansolme said the company already has started manufacturing millions of doses of the vaccine.

“This is a definite step in the right direction,” Chansolme said.

He said Oklahoma leaders have developed a “thoughtful and well-thought-out” plan to distribute the vaccine when it becomes widely available. Additional vaccine options also may become available in 2021.

“It will be a public health effort unlike we’ve ever seen before,” he said.

But Dr. George Monks, Oklahoma State Medical Association president, said the state already is acing record numbers of positive infections and unprecedented numbers of patients needing hospital care.

“While a vaccine is on the horizon, we are still months away from anything being available to all Oklahomans,” he said. “It will not save the lives of those who are seriously ill right now. Nor will it prevent future infections as we move into the holiday season. This is not fearmongering, this is reflecting the reality we currently face.”

The state plan aims to distribute the vaccine in phases.

Phase 1 aims to prove the vaccine to “critical populations,” including long-term care and assisted living facilities, public health and health care personnel, first responders and people with increased risk for severe illness related to COVID-19, including those 65 and older, according to the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan developed by the state Department of Health.

As supply grows, the state will move to Phase 2. COVID vaccine accessibility will expand. Mass immunization clinics will be utilized by health departments and tribes to provide easier access, according to the plan.

When the state enters Phase 3, the vaccine will be available statewide.

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