Oklahoma transitions to phase two of vaccine rollout

First responders, healthcare workers and residents 65 and older first priority.
Ottawa County Health Department

MIAMI, Okla. – It’s been just over two weeks since COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says so far nearly 30 thousand doses have been administered across the state.

“We’re moving pretty quickly, so I think that that’s definitely promising,” says Jessica Milberger with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Now, the state is transitioning to phase two of their vaccine distribution plan, further expanding access to thousands of Oklahomans.

“I don’t think anybody really expected us to be this far along, cause the initial phase two wasn’t supposed to start until January,” says Milberger.

Priority groups

Phase two includes first responders, health care workers providing COVID related outpatient care, adults 65 and older, adults with underlying health conditions, pre-k through 12 teachers and staff, staff and residents in congregate locations and worksites, public health staff supporting front line efforts, and anyone who falls into phase one that hasn’t been vaccinated.

(More details on the tiers can be found here: https://oklahoma.gov/content/dam/ok/en/covid19/documents/vaccine/COVID-19%20Vaccine%20Priority%20Population%20Framework%20for%20Oklahoma%20-%2012-10-20.pdf

But Milberger explains that not everyone in phase two will have access right at first.

“So starting with those first responders, we’re at that tier one level. And then healthcare workers at that two tier. And then that three tier, we’re looking at the 65 and older.”

There’s been some questions regarding who the state is considering first responders, since they fall into the first part of phase two.

“In phase one, we had EMS. First responders are people like the fire department, the police department, emergency managers, medical examiners. Anybody who has any of that outward facing interaction with COVID-19. Are you potentially being exposed? That would qualify you under that first responder level,” explains Milberger. “I know there’s been some questions about dispatchers and things like that. Those individuals will most likely fall into phase two tier five. And that’s that critical infrastructure to the county and city government.”

Miami Police Chief Thomas Anderson is happy to see vaccines become available to first responders, but hopes the state decides to move dispatchers to a higher priority.

“Dispatchers are absolutely first responders. “They are one of the most critical parts of any first responder because everything goes through them before it gets to us. And if we have an outbreak in that office it cripples all of public safety.” says Anderson.

Anderson explains that the department isn’t making vaccinations mandatory for employees, and that there are some at the department that are on the fence. But there are several officers who have already signed up to get their first doses.

“I’ve had several people sign up that are just ready to get their vaccine. I signed up. I have an appointment next Wednesday so I’m looking forward to it,” says Anderson. “I’m hoping that this signals a beginning of the end and we can go back to a normal society and a normal working environment.”

Distribution. 

On December 29th, OSDH announced their plan to distribute the vaccine to Oklahomans in phase two.

In a release, the department explains they will be using “PODS” or Points of Dispensing Sites across the state — vaccine clinics that can be done at schools, community centers and fairgrounds across the state.

In Ottawa and Delaware County, at least at first, they will be doing vaccine clinics at their respective health departments.

Both departments have vaccine clinics scheduled for next week — where first responders, healthcare workers and those who were in phase one can make appointments for Monday, Wednesday or Friday to receive their initial doses.

The number of appointments slots they offer depends on the amount of vaccine they have available — but officials are working to offer more appoints during each clinic.

“Once someone comes into the health department they’ll fill out some paperwork. They’ll get a card that’s a CDC card that says exactly what vaccine they received and the lot number it comes from. They will be walked through the process with the nurse. The nurse will then do some screening questions, ask if they have any past allergic reactions,” explains Milberger. “The nurse will then provide the vaccine and they’ll be moved into an observation room. Depending on if they’ve had any past allergic reactions, that waiting period is anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. And that’s just to make sure that there’s no adverse reactions. On that CDC card, it will tell them exactly when they can return to get their secondary dosage. Right now we’re in the process of determining exactly what that’s going to look like.”

She also recommends bringing a photo ID, and for first responders to bring their ID badge so the health department can verify their employment.

The department currently isn’t sure if future vaccine clinics in the counties will be at the health departments or at a different site — but the process should be very similar for residents regardless of where they have to go.