Millions more Oklahomans eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

After an abrupt opening of vaccines to almost 2 million more Oklahomans on Tuesday, about half of the appointments at a health department vaccination event in Ada were open on Wednesday morning. 

“Phases 1, 2 and 3 cover nearly 3.5 million Oklahomans — so odds are, you are currently eligible for the vaccine,” said Keith Reed, Deputy Commissioner for the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday. 

Tuesday’s announcement came just days after the small remaining groups of Phase 2 were added. According to the state’s four-phase vaccination plan, Phase 3 includes staff and students outside of PreK-12 schools and critical infrastructure personnel, including child care facilities and vocational schools.  

An estimated 1.5 million people also become eligible as part of “critical infrastructure personnel” identified in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s third executive order in May 2020.  

More:View the complete Oklahoma Essential Industries List from the Okla. Dept. of Commerce

“Thanks to increasing vaccine supply and the fluidity of our state distribution plan, we’re excited to open vaccine appointments to our next major priority groups. This also means different counties may be in different stages in the roll out based on their population and needs,” Reed said. 

OSDH vaccination efforts in metro areas have been filling up but rural sites have not, according to OSDH Public Information Officer Julie Williamson.  

“We are in Ada today, which was only half-full this morning, but there are some walk-ins and we are registering them on site,” she said in a Wednesday email. Appointments for a Thursday vaccination event at the Ardmore Convention Center was nearly filled by 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Williamson said district resources were also sent to Ringling for a “well-attended” event on Tuesday after coordination with town officials. She said outreach efforts are underway to deliver vaccines to underserved populations and large employers. 

“We may have reached a point where those most anxious and willing to drive long distances have been vaccinated, and we will need to shift our focus into making it more convenient to access the vaccine,” Williamson said.