Frye expects 175,000 vaccinations by year’s end
Mike Seals - December 22, 2020 10:00 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma health officials could begin vaccinating people in the second phase of the state’s distribution plan as early as next week and expect nearly 175,000 high-risk Oklahomans to be vaccinated by the end of the year, the state’s health commissioner said Tuesday.
Dr. Lance Frye said about 21,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have already been distributed to front-line health care workers in all 77 counties since last week, and the first shipments of the newly approved Moderna vaccine started arriving in the state on Monday.
“With more shipments, we’ll keep moving forward with our vaccination plan to help get it to those who need it most,” Frye said.
The second phase of Oklahoma’s vaccine distribution plan includes first responders, adults over 65 or with underlying health conditions, teachers and support staff in schools and health care settings.
Frye and Gov. Kevin Stitt were on hand Tuesday in Oklahoma City for the vaccination of a worker and a resident of a long-term care facility, both of whom are in the first phase of the distribution plan, along with front-line health care workers.
State data shows more than one-third of the coronavirus deaths in Oklahoma have been residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
Despite the rapid rollout of vaccines in the state, front-line health care workers implored Oklahomans to continue wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands frequently.
“I fear that we focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and don’t look at the situation we have right now, which is we need help,” said Amy Petitt, a nurse at the intensive care unit of St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City.
Petitt said she and her colleagues are seeing the number of people die in a single day that they typically see in a week or more.
“We’ve seen more death and dying than normal,” Petitt said. “These are not just numbers you see on a graph or a website. These are real people, and sometimes these patients are dying without their families by their side, and it’s emotionally hard.”
State health officials on Tuesday reported 2,186 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 22 additional deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 256,620 and the state’s death toll to 2,240. The true number of infections in Oklahoma is likely higher because many haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
While the 7-day rolling average of test positivity and number of confirmed cases in Oklahoma have increased over the last two weeks, data from Johns Hopkins University shows the 7-day rolling average of daily deaths in Oklahoma did not increase during that time, going from 24 deaths per day on Dec. 7 to 20.86 deaths per day on Dec. 21.