Oklahoma may not see influx of coronavirus vaccines after federal fiasco
Oklahoma's COVID-19 vaccine coordinator said Friday he feels as though the rug was pulled out from under him after he learned the federal government does not have a stockpile of second vaccine doses waiting in reserve.
State officials across the country were told earlier this week the Trump administration would soon release all available vaccines, instead of holding back doses for scheduled second shots.
However, no such vaccine reserve exists as the Trump administration began shipping out all available vaccine at the end of December — a change state officials said was not conveyed to them. Instead of those second doses sitting in a warehouse somewhere, the federal government was shipping second doses to states right after the vials came off the production line, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Earlier this week, Oklahoma's Deputy Commissioner of Health Keith Reed said the federal government's announcement about shipping second doses would result in the state receiving an influx of doses far greater than the 30,000-50,000 doses the state has received each week up to this point.
“What I had hoped was going to happen, based off their announcement, was that we were going to get three weeks of reserve for Pfizer and four weeks of reserve for Moderna," he said. "I was hoping we were going to get that in a large inventory coming into the state.
"I was under the illusion earlier this week that there was supply out there, just sitting there."
He was informed Thursday that is not the case.
The change creates a logistical challenge wherein the state will have to put a priority on using upcoming doses for Oklahomans' second shots, Reed said. He doesn't think the change will slow down Oklahoma's vaccine distribution, but at the same time, the process will not rapidly speed up.
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Oklahoma has administered 214,372 vaccines. But only 29,239 Oklahomans have received both shots of the two-dose regimen.
The COVID-19 shots from Pfizer and Moderna are administered about 21 and 28 days apart, respectively. Reed said the state will continue to plan to give Oklahomans both shots, as opposed to spreading single doses to more people, which makes the vaccine less effective and is not how the doses were tested in clinical trials.
Reed previously said a dramatic increase in doses would allow Oklahoma to quickly scale up distribution by offering more mass vaccination clinics and allowing the state to spread doses to primary care providers, urgent care clinics and federally qualified health centers.
Now, those plans are likely on hold.
“It’s frustrating when it’s not so much moving the goalposts as it is changing the rules of the game as we’re playing it," Reed said, expressing his disappointment in the federal government.
Oklahoma continues to vaccinate health care workers, first responders and those age 65 or older. There are no immediate plans to expand distribution to other priority groups.
Reporter Carmen Forman covers state government, politics and the COVID-19 pandemic for The Oklahoman. Send story tips to email@example.com or connect on Twitter with @CarmenMForman. Please support the work of Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a print or digital subscription today at oklahoman.com/subscribe.