Oklahoma health officials reject CDC vaccine recommendation

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/28/2020 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma health officials say they don’t plan to follow all of the new federal guidelines for coronavirus vaccine distribution and will keep adults 65 and older in Phase Two of the state's distribution protocol.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines over the weekend to prioritize people aged 75 and older and front-line essential workers in Phase Two of the vaccine rollout. But Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in a statement late Wednesday that the state’s advisory committee decided it would be problematic to prioritize young and healthy workers over Oklahomans in the 65-74 age group.

“While we always take CDC recommendations into consideration, in this particular case, our advisory and planning committees do not feel comfortable implementing an automatic change at this time," Frye said. “We believe the current priority groups as outlined by our state’s planning committee ensure that our most vulnerable populations are able to receive the vaccine first."

Along with adults 65 and older, the state also plans to prioritize adults of any age with comorbidities, including hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers or chronic lung, liver or renal diseases. The state estimates there are about 635,000 Oklahomans in these two categories.

Frye says health officials plan to closely monitor the state's vaccine supply and could consider prioritizing those age 75 and older if supplies and provider access remains limited.

Frye has said Oklahoma could move into the second phase of its vaccine distribution plan as early as next week. The priority groups in Phase Two include first responders, such as police, firefighters and medical examiners, followed by health care workers providing COVID outpatient care and those in high-risk outpatient settings, such as dentists, hospice workers and physical therapists.

Meanwhile, health officials on Wednesday reported 3,277 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 45 new deaths, bringing the state's totals to 272,553 confirmed cases and 2,328 deaths. The true number of infections in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. The state also reported Wednesday that 1,836 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

The seven-day rolling average of Oklahoma's positivity rate, number of daily new cases and daily deaths have all increased over the last two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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