First doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer arrived in Oklahoma at INTEGRIS Health in Oklahoma City and Saint Francis Health System in Tulsa Monday, officials announced in a press conference. Arrival of the vaccine comes just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), clearing the way for vaccine distribution nationwide.
“Today is a historic day. Less than 72 hours after the Federal Drug Administration cleared the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the first doses are here in Oklahoma and being distributed to our frontline healthcare workers,” said Gov. Stitt. “We know we are not out of the woods yet with this virus, but today is a major step in the right direction as we work toward protecting the health and lives of all Oklahomans, keeping our businesses open safely and getting our kids back in school in January.”
The first 7,800 doses arrived Monday morning, Dec. 14, at INTEGRIS Health in Oklahoma City, and 9,750 doses arrived at Saint Francis, with expectations that more of the initial shipment of 33,000 doses will arrive this week at other designated healthcare facilities throughout the state. The first ten doses of the vaccine were administered to frontline health care workers at INTEGRIS Health shortly after the conclusion of the press conference. The first Oklahoman to receive the vaccine was Hannah White, a registered nurse with INTEGRIS Health who has been serving on the frontlines of COVID-19 since March.
The state and National Guard will manage distribution to other locations across Oklahoma to ensure statewide access to the vaccine. The locations are not being released prior to vaccine arrival out of concerns for security.
“The State Department of Health has been working for months with partners across the state to ensure a seamless distribution of the vaccine when one became available, and I am excited to see that plan in motion today,” said State Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye. “We want to remind everyone that we still have a long road ahead of us, as these first doses are reserved for those Oklahomans most at risk. We need Oklahomans to continue doing their part by employing preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is fully available to the public later in 2021.”
Not everyone will be able to access the vaccine right away. The Oklahoma State Department of Health developed a phased plan in close collaboration with local, state and federal partners at CDC and Operation Warp Speed to ensure priority groups are able to access the vaccine first. OSDH anticipates that all Oklahomans should be able to access the vaccine sometime in 2021.
“We’re getting the vaccine to those who need it most first,” said Keith Reed, Deputy Commissioner of Health at OSDH. “The first people to receive the vaccine will be frontline healthcare workers, followed soon after by long-term care facility staff members and residents and public health staff who are critical to the COVID-19 vaccination program. It is our hope that by starting with our frontline workers, we can help protect them as they work tirelessly to keep Oklahomans safe and healthy. As we receive more shipments of the vaccine, we’ll proceed in providing it to Oklahomans as outlined in our priority phase plan.”
To view a copy of Oklahoma’s vaccine distribution plan and see a detailed breakdown of the plan’s priority phases, please visit oklahoma.gov/covid19.
Because of the speed the COVID-19 vaccines became available, some have questioned their safety. Dr. Douglas Drevets, an infectious disease doctor for OU Medicine who served on OSDH’s Vaccine Prioritization Review Committee, said the FDA has rigorous scientific and regulatory processes in place that ensure the safety, effectiveness and quality of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Oklahomans should feel confident in receiving the vaccine when it becomes available to them,” Drevets said. “The Pfizer vaccine being distributed starting today has been shown in late-stage vaccine trials to be safe and 95% effective. As always, Oklahomans should consult with their doctor if they have any questions about the vaccine, but this is a vaccine Oklahomans can feel comfortable taking.”
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