State health department expected to transition to daily appointments ‘soon’
By Traci Chapman
When Oklahoma State Health Department officials prepared for the roll-out of vaccinations for the novel coronavirus to area seniors, they were a little concerned – that perhaps worries about the shots might keep those individuals away.
That wasn’t a problem, they say.
Instead, the need has been so great – including those attempting to get vaccinated in Canadian County – the department’s systems have been taxed as staff scramble to accommodate all of the individuals who wish to get vaccinated as protection against COVID-19.
As of press time, vaccines were still available in Oklahoma only for healthcare workers, first responders and anyone aged 65 and older; those wishing to be vaccinated must make an appointment online to do so.
That’s where some issues have come in, said Maggie Jackson, health department community engagement and planning director for Canadian, Blaine, Kingfisher, Garfield, Grant, Logan and Major counties.
“There have been some issues with people being to access the system and, of course, we have some seniors who don’t have email or access to the internet,” Jackson said Friday, as streams of seniors waited their turn to receive COVID-19 vaccinations at Redlands Community College in El Reno. “We’re working on making it work and just ask for everyone’s patience.”
Redlands was the site chosen in Canadian County to conduct vaccinations. Available large meeting space and adjoining areas were the perfect choice for staging vaccination administration, as well as room for those already injected to rest and make sure they didn’t have any adverse reactions, Jackson said – and the school’s staff had made that part of the process “painless.” In addition to health department staff from Canadian County and across the state, Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps, Oklahoma National Guard, Canadian County Emergency Management and others helped to administer injections and provide support for those efforts, Jackson said.
Jan. 6 was the first date open for senior vaccinations; the next scheduled day is Friday, Jackson said. Because appointments filled up so quickly both for Jan. 6 and Jan. 15 – “in minutes” – health department officials plan to begin scheduling those daily, hopefully within a week or so and, possibly, earlier. As of press time no start date for daily appointments was yet confirmed, officials said.
Jackson stated in a Sunday email 1,158 people were vaccinated during the Redlands Jan. 6 event.
“We have received hundreds of calls and messages and we know that people are very urgently wanting to get access to the vaccine,” Jackson said. “Our staff is working very hard to make sure we get as much vaccine to our communities as soon as we can.
“We will have more appointments opening up and will be offering vaccine most days after we provide these first large events,” she said. “We are asking that no one show up who has not signed up online through our portal.”
Health department offices have been deluged with calls concerning vaccination appointments, Jackson said – and she asked individuals wanting more information or to make an appointment not to call, but to pre-enroll on the state health department system, located online at https://vaccinate.oklahoma.gov.
The department would also utilize that portal for administration of second vaccine doses when that procedure kicked off, Jackson said.
“This portal will enroll you to receive email notifications of available appointments in your area,” Jackson said. “For those who do not have internet, please call 211 for assistance with enrollment.”
Locally, the state began vaccinating staff at Integris Canadian Valley Hospital and SSM/St. Anthony’s Mustang Healthplex in Mustang and El Reno Dec. 17. A second event – for first responders and healthcare professionals – was held Dec. 31, Jackson said.
Do you or a senior you know need assistance with the health department’s online portal? Contact Times staff writer Traci Chapman for assistance at 405-664-4641.