Hundreds vaccinated at Ardmore Convention Center

Michael D. Smith
Marian Hopkins looks away as she receives the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccination at the Ardmore Convention Center Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2021, while husband Randall Hopkins waits for his dose. The couple was among those over 65 years old who recently became eligible for the vaccine and said their daughter booked their appointment.

Hundreds of people lined up at the Ardmore Convention Center for their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday. The vaccination event was the first in the area to vaccinate those over 65 years and remained open for health care workers, first responders and others in the state’s first phase of its vaccination plan.

According to Julie Williamson, Public Information Officer for the south-central region of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, people were lined up by 5:30 a.m. for the event that was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. She said vehicles stretched past the Interstate 35 bridge over Veterans Boulevard during the earliest hours of the event.

“We’ve had a huge response to these events,” she said on Tuesday. Appointments and walk-in schedules were filled in less than two hours.

Williamson said 1,125 people received the first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ardmore on Tuesday but declined to say precisely how many doses were made available. Over 100 people managed the event between the parking lot and a post-vaccination monitoring area.

Most of the staff were health department employees that was supported by volunteers from area organizations and the Oklahoma National Guard.

Area residents wait outside the Ardmore Convention Center.

The Ardmore Convention Center will be the weekly host for regional OSDH resources to administer vaccines in Ardmore under the state’s four-phase vaccine program for the foreseeable future. Similar events will be held on Wednesdays at the Pontotoc County Agri-Plex, 1710 N. Broadway Ave. in Ada, and on Thursdays at the Stephens County Fairgrounds, 2002 S. 13th St. in Duncan.

Under the federal Operation Warp Speed, retail chains CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens will also be points of distribution as vaccine efforts continue to roll out this month.

The state health department on Tuesday also announced the launch of a new vaccine scheduling system. The online tool will allow Oklahomans to determine their eligibility within each priority group and provide contact information to OSDH for updates and notifications when it is their turn to receive the vaccine, according to a statement.

Ardmore police direct traffic outside of the Ardmore Convention Center Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, during a COVID-19 vaccination event. A health department spokesperson said traffic early in the event stretch to Interstate 35 and Veterans Boulevard.

“This is an exciting step, as we now have the opportunity to vaccinate larger priority groups in Oklahoma,” said OSDH Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye. “We’re hopeful that the launch of this portal will ease confusion and create a seamless experience for all Oklahomans.”

Links to the new scheduling app will be shared on county health department social media outlets beginning Thursday. There is no list for Oklahomans to be added to in order to be included in the state's distribution, according to Tuesday's statement. More information about the OSDH rollout of vaccines is on the state's website, or by calling 211.

In the days leading up to this week’s vaccination events, OSDH posted links to social media for Oklahomans to register. A Jan. 2 Facebook post by the Carter County Health Department included a disclaimer about ads utilized on the free online scheduling tool. Subsequent messaging from the state health department reiterated that the social media links were legitimate.

OSDH is exploring additional options for individuals who are not able to access the internet or a computer. Tuesday’s statement recommends those without internet access can call their local county health department or the state’s COVID-19 hotline by dialing 211.

During Tuesday’s vaccination event inside the convention center, staff members checked IDs to match appointment times and provided vaccination information. People then received their vaccine and were then monitored for at least 15 minutes to check for any adverse reactions. Priority was given to on-duty police officers, firefighters and other first responders during the event.

Vaccine recipients wait in a socially distanced area for at least 15 minutes after receiving a shot at the Ardmore Convention Center Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, to be monitored for any adverse reactions. A health department spokesperson said no such reactions were seen during the event.

Vaccination availability to more priority groups remains unclear as state health officials only know how many vaccines will be shipped on a weekly basis. Williamson said the state health department then allocates vaccines to individual regions, when then distributes and administers the drugs. 

Oklahoma has recorded 308,268 cases of COVID-19 after 1,497 new cases were reported on Tuesday. The death toll reported by OSDH grew to 2,571 after 19 new deaths linked to COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday.

Carter County has recorded 3,109 cases of the disease after 17 new cases were reported on Tuesday. The number of active COVID-19 cases in the county fell from 626 on Monday to 591 on Tuesday and has remained above 500 since Saturday. 

Carter County has recorded 3,109 cases of COVID-19 since March 25. Only three entire months have recorded more new cases in the county than the first five days of January.

The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. OSDH reports of confirmed cases and deaths linked to COVID-19 have also been delayed by days or even weeks.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.