Effort still in first phase – seniors, first responders, healthcare workers
By Traci Chapman
The long line outside town center Monday morning illustrated more than the signs posted – Oklahoma State Health Department’s vaccine headquarters for COVID-19 vaccinations had officially moved to Mustang.
Monday was the first day of that change, which saw health department operations move from El Reno to the larger town center venue. It was a massive undertaking that’s utilized not only Canadian County and other health department staff, but also National Guard and volunteers with Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps, said Maggie Jackson, District 2 community engagement and planning director. The district encompasses Canadian, Blaine, Kingfisher, Garfield, Grant, Logan and Major counties.
“We are so thankful to our volunteers – we wouldn’t be able to do this on this kind of scale without them,” Jackson said Monday.
Officials reiterate appointments needed, to show up at scheduled time
Lines were much longer Monday in Mustang than they were the first day in El Reno, when state health department workers administered vaccinations at Redlands Community College. Officials said Monday they believed one issue was that those with appointment were coming to town center much earlier than their appointment time – something they again urged them Monday not to do.
Also, there have been instances of individuals attempting to insist on getting a vaccination – despite not having an appointment. Officials said that was not how the program works and those without appointments would be turned away.
There are specific required steps to obtain a vaccination – the first, of course, obtaining an appointment, Jackson said. To do so, go online to https://www.vaccinate.oklahoma.gov or by calling 211; when coming to get the injection, bring identification proving age for those 65 and older or proof of employment as a first responder or healthcare worker.
“We ask that people arrive at their scheduled appointment time and not early – this will help us to have better line management and social distancing in our buildings,” Jackson said. “One of the primary reasons we moved to Mustang was that the facility was so much larger – we have plenty of space for vaccinations, but also for that important waiting time to ensure no one has any kind of reaction to the vaccination.
“We are so thankful to both Redlands Community College and First Baptist Church in El Reno for serving our community and allowing us the use of their facility,” she said Monday. “(City of) Mustang officials have been so wonderful to deal with, and we are so appreciative of their support and are so happy to be partnering with them.”
For their part, city officials wanted to reiterate to those both seeking and obtaining vaccine appointments that the operation was fully under the control of the state health department – and asked those involved in the vaccination process not to turn to city staff for specifics on doing that.
“Our role was just providing them a space – and we were happy to do that to facilitate the process,” City Manager Tim Rooney said last week. “We have no further information regarding the details or making appointments – people still have to use the state portal to register and schedule an appointment.”
Moving forward into next phases
Vaccinations remain in Phase 1 – available only to those 65 years old and older, first responders and healthcare workers, Jackson said. The department would only move to Phase 2 when mandated statewide – not locally and something that could be awhile, she said.
“We must follow the state vaccination plan and cannot change the phases locally,” Jackson said. “I wish I knew the timeline but we still have so many seniors over 65 in need of vaccination.”
Precautions still necessary – even after both vaccinations, officials say
While Pfizer and Moderna vaccines present a measure of hope, they are not a cure-all for the novel coronavirus, officials said. Individuals have been known to contract COVID-19 even after being vaccinated – and, as important, someone vaccinated may still spread the virus, Jackson said.
“We know the vaccine is effective at protecting recipients from COVID-19 — but you may still be able to spread it to others,” she said. “The vaccine is designed to protect you but is not a replacement for taking action to protect others.
“Some point soon we will have more data on how the vaccines impact the transmission of the virus, but in the meantime everyone should please continue to wear a mask, wash their hands and watch their distance,” Jackson said. “After you have had the vaccine, it is vital that you continue to take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Thousands already vaccinated but individuals still encountering issues
Jackson said Monday as of Jan. 29, about 27,000 individuals had been vaccinated in Canadian County and the other counties that comprise District 2.
That’s a remarkable achievement for just over a month, officials said; however, problems continue to plague the state’s vaccination registration and appointment system – and hundreds, perhaps thousands statewide are still encountering issues preventing them from getting the vaccine, she said.
“We would like people to know that we need all of our community to reach out and assist those who may not have access to the internet in enrolling for appointments. they have filled up very quickly and we are doing our best to give as much vaccine as quickly as we can to those in need,” Jackson said.
Canadian County began its first COVID-19 vaccinations – of hospital, other healthcare workers and first responders – Dec. 17. Since beginning administering the Pfizer and Moderna shots to residents aged 65 and above, the demand for appointments has been overwhelming, and somewhat unexpected, Jackson said.
“We are so happy so many people are embracing getting the vaccinations and are working so hard to make that happen,” she said. “That’s what prompted us to move to daily vaccinations quickly and then, again, to move to Mustang’s larger venue.”
Second dose timelines
Those receiving the vaccine must get a second dose to ensure the best possible protection, and that depends on whether an individual is vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna. Follow-up doses for those are at least 21 days for Pfizer and at least 28 days for Moderna after receiving the initial injection. Those appointments should be also be made through the state system.
“It is okay to receive the second dose later than that as there is no maximum interval for the second dose,” Jackson said. “You do not need to schedule your second dose appointment on exactly the 21-day or 28-day timeline.”
More information, resources
For Canadian County residents, additional information is available on its Facebook page, located at https://www.facebook.com/CanadianCoHealth; answers to frequently asked questions concerning COVID-19 vaccines are available on the state health department website, located at https://oklahoma.gov/covid19/vaccine-information/vaccine-faqs.html.