Local health officials hopeful FDA approval will improve vaccine rates

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

With full federal approval of one COVID-19 vaccine this week, local health officials say the move should encourage the public about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. 

Mendy Spohn, a regional director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said that Monday’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will not affect how her department distributes or administers the vaccine in our state. She hopes the news will “help encourage greater vaccine uptake during this critical time.” 

“We know that many people preferred to wait until the vaccine received full FDA approval to get vaccinated. With the Delta variant surging, we encourage you to make your appointment for a free COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are able. Our hope is that this approval further reassures Oklahomans of the safety and efficacy of these vaccines,” Spohn said in a Monday afternoon statement. 

Oklahoma State Department of Health Regional Director Mendy Spohn speaks to the Ardmore City Commission Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

For Mercy Hospital Ardmore President Daryle Voss, the FDA approval proves that the vaccine is safe and effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

“It’s definitely great news in that it further validates that the vaccine is working and safe but also gives a further vote of confidence to those who have been waiting for positive news like this before they decide to be vaccinated,” Voss said on Monday. 

Mercy Hospital Ardmore President Daryle Voss speaks to the Ardmore City Commission on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

On Monday, the hospital was caring for 33 patients with COVID-19, six of whom were in the hospital’s intensive care unit. 

The hospital in January peaked with caring for 63 patients with COVID-19 before numbers fell through the spring as vaccines became widely available. Voss told The Ardmoreite in July that the number of local COVID-19 hospitalizations was beginning to climb out of the single digits. 

Earlier this month, the hospital was caring for nearly 40 COVID-19 patients.

More:Local health care again pressured by COVID-19 surge

The growing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations locally and nationally have mostly been among those who have not received any of the three currently available vaccines against the disease. The influx of COVID-19 patients this summer has again put pressure on emergency care with 10 patients in the Ardmore emergency room on Monday waiting for beds to open up for inpatient care elsewhere. 

While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first to receive full authorization from the FDA, two other vaccines by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson continue to be administered under an emergency use authorization. 

According to USA TODAY, about 51.5% of Americans have been fully vaccinated while only about 42% of Oklahomans have been fully vaccinated.