Heath officials work on scheduling second COVID-19 vaccines

JAMES BEATY | Staff photoW. Lee Brown, left, gets the first round of the two-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 5 from Nurse Practitioner Crystal Mapes at the Expo Center in McAlester. Public health officials said everyone who received the first vaccination from the Pittsburg County Health Department prior to Jan. 11 will be contacted and told when to get their second vaccination, while those who received the vaccination after Jan. 11 can schedule their second dose through an online portal.

Public health and emergency management officials are working on a schedule for when the second vaccination can be given to those who got their first round of the two-dose COVID-19 Moderna vaccine on Jan. 5 at the Expo Center in McAlester.

Health personnel administered 940 vaccinations at the Expo on Jan. 5. Those who received shots on that day were given cards stating when they were due for the second dose of the vaccine — but health officials said Wednesday those cards were not confirmation of appointments.

Rather, they were to let the individuals know when the second round was due.

The current situation calls for those wanting to set up appointments for the COVID-19 vaccination to go on the Oklahoma State Department of Health's online portal, or scheduler. It can be reached online at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov. That's how most of those who were given the first round of vaccinations at the Expo Center scheduled their appointments in the first place.

Anyone who got their first vaccination on Jan. 12 or thereafter should schedule their second vaccination date through the portal.

However, the scheduler on the portal cannot currently make the second appointment for those who got their first vaccination at the Expo Center on Jan. 5, said District Nurse Supervisor Melissa Locke.

"The scheduler can't make their second appointment; it's not set up," Locke said. "We're working on a plan for those individuals on how they will get their second shot."

Although the details are still being worked out, Regional/Pittsburg County Health Department Administrator Juli Montgomery said it's expected that all of those who got their first COVID-19 vaccine at the Expo Center on Jan. 5 will be individually contacted on when they will have an appointment to get the second one — which may, or may not, be the same date as the one on the card they were given on Jan. 5.

"We're going to notify them because the portal cannot schedule the second shot for anyone (who got the first vaccination) prior to Jan. 11," Montgomery said.

Locke said the notification will tell those who got their first vaccination at Expo Center remote pod last week when and where they are to report for the second shot.

Details on the method of notification were still being worked out with McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe, Montgomery and Locke said.

They said they will announce details when the plan is finalized.

While those who got their first round of vaccinations at the Expo Center on Jan. 5 cannot currently make an appointment to get their second dose through the online portal, the same does not apply to the 837 individuals who received their first round of vaccinations this week at the Expo Center on Tuesday, Jan. 12, health officials reiterated.

Those who were given the first round of their vaccinations on Jan. 12 this week at the Expo Center should go online at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov to reschedule their second vaccine, health officials said.

The state is currently in Phase 2 of administering the COVID-19 vaccinations. Those eligible for vaccination during Phase 2 includes health care workers, first responders and those who are 65 or older. 

Health officials have had to wait to learn how much of the vaccine will be available from the federal government on a weekly basis. They expect the amount of vaccines available to begin increasing.

"We want to reassure people more and more vaccine is becoming available," Locke said.

Plans are to keep administering the vaccine to those who have made appointments in advance at the Expo Center each Tuesday.

"We ask people not to show up without an appointment," Montgomery said.

While the current situation calls for the COVID-19 vaccinations to be set up through the state health department portal — with the exception of those who got the first vaccination prior to Jan. 11 — local health officials recognize that everyone may not have a way to access the site, such as the elderly or those with no internet. The state health departments advises getting a family member or friend to help, but local health officials there are still some who may have challenges finding someone to help.

To accommodate those, the Pittsburg County Health Department can make a limited number of appointments  through a phone call at 918 423-1267.

"We would like for the public to reserve those for the elderly and for people who don't have access to the internet," said Montgomery.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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