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Vaccine scheduling portal to launch Thursday morning

Michael D. Smith
msmith@ardmoreite.com

Oklahomans can begin the registration process and receive notices when they can schedule a COVID-19 vaccination. An online scheduling portal will launch at 8 a.m. Thursday that will allow the state department of health to distribute vaccines on a weekly basis.

While vaccination efforts ramp up in Oklahoma this week, data reported by the state health department continues to show a worsening situation with over 3,300 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed and another 62 deaths reported statewide on Wednesday.

The COVID-19 vaccination scheduling portal on a laptop and mobile device Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. While preregistration started on Wednesday, Oklahomans eligible for vaccines can schedule an appointment with the online tool beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Keith Reed, Deputy Commissioner for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said that nearly 80,000 people had successfully registered with the online scheduling portal by 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, just hours after links were shared on the department’s social media accounts.

He reiterated to reporters on Thursday that the number of distribution sites and appointments in the foreseeable future will be heavily driven by the weekly shipments of the drugs from federal stockpiles. About 38,000 doses of vaccines will be shipped to Oklahoma next week and state health officials will know next Tuesday how many doses can be expected the following week.

“Appointments are limited by supply, and that’s just going to be a core tenant moving forward. We can’t enter appointments into this system if we don’t have the supply to support them,” said Reed.

All Oklahomans are able to register through the portal but only those currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the state’s priority phase plan will be able to schedule their vaccine appointment at this time.

During the registration process at https://vaccinate.oklahoma.gov, Oklahomans will fill out demographic data, medical history, COVID-19 history and contact information. Reed said information about health insurance is being collected for administration reasons later in the vaccination process but is not required.

“There is no requirement for having insurance, there is no requirement for somebody to provide that information, but because insurance companies are set to reimburse for the time it takes to give these vaccines, we think it is fair that we set up a system to collect that information,” said Reed.

Those who register will be notified by email to schedule an appointment when their priority group is being offered vaccines.

Some concerns about the online scheduling portal regards are being addressed for those that may lack internet access or have other technological limitations. Reed said health officials will enhance the state’s COVID-19 211 telephone hotline and county health department staff to walk people through the process if necessary.

“We’re building a system for the masses,” Reed said, adding that a vast majority of Oklahomans will be able to successfully use the online portal. “We understand that it does not work for everybody and not everybody has access to that technology.” 

Beginning on Thursday morning, only Oklahomans who are over 65 years old, health care workers or first responders will be able to schedule appointments. As the state advances through the four-phased approach to vaccine distribution, the online portal will notify individuals when their priority group is opened for appointment scheduling. 

A vaccination event at the Stephens County Fairgrounds, 2002 S. 13th St. in Duncan has already had appointments filled but is expected to schedule further appointments on a walk-in basis. Weekly events in Ardmore, Ada and Duncan that started this week will be by appointment-only.

Oklahoma has recorded 311,573 cases of COVID-19 after 3,305 new cases were reported on Wednesday, according to OSDH data. The death toll reported by OSDH grew to 2,633 after 62 new deaths linked to COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday.

While the number of newly reported cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma varies wildly every day, the less volatile seven-day average of new cases reported was over 3,500 Wednesday.

Carter County has recorded 3,198 cases of the disease after 89 new cases were reported on Wednesday. The number of active COVID-19 cases in the county surged to 642 on Wednesday, the highest number reported in the county by OSDH.

The number of active COVID-19 infections reported in Carter County surged over 600 for only the second time Wednesday.

Hospitalizations statewide related to COVID-19 remained at or near all-time highs on Wednesday. According to OSDH reporting data, 1,994 hospital beds in the state were treating confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Mercy Hospital Ardmore was treating 41 patients for COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, with nine of those patients in ICU, according to a hospital spokesperson.

While state health department data reports 18 deaths in Carter County have been linked to COVID-19, the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Ardmore confirmed 24 deaths linked to the disease between Dec. 16 and Saturday. Updated information about case numbers and deaths at the facility were unavailable on Wednesday.

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 are known to be 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.