Oklahomans with health problems soon will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
Beginning Monday, residents under 65 with comorbidities, as well as teachers and school staff for grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade will be added to the list of those eligible for a vaccine.
Those currently eligible for a vaccine—including over age 65, first responders and health care workers–will still be eligible for immunizations.
The Oklahoma County Department of Health opened 5,500 appointments for those over age 65 65 for Friday and Saturday, saying those appointments will be their last opportunities reserved specifically for those in the current vaccination phase.
The state’s vaccine scheduling portal and prioritization plan include lists of health issues that put people at increased risk of having a severe illness if they were to contract COVID-19.
Those include: asthma, cancers, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver or renal disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, suppressed immune system.
Down syndrome also has been added to the list, said Keith Reed, Oklahoma’s deputy commissioner of health.
Dr. Reed said in a statement that the list, which is based on recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, may not be exhaustive.
“If someone has a comorbid condition not included in the list, they can reach out to their personal provider to ask about the vaccine and to see if they may be eligible,” Dr. Reed said.
Dr. Reed said the state health department won’t require documentation that proves someone has a comorbidity.
“As this public health crisis continues, we trust Oklahomans to be honest and we do not want to slow down the process of administering the vaccine by asking for proof of a comorbidity,” he said.
For those receiving a vaccination through their health care provider or pharmacy, those entities will determine whether they meet eligibility requirements.
According to data on the state health department’s dashboard, more than 447,000 residents have received their first dose of a vaccine and over 173,000 have been fully vaccinated with both doses.
As the state moves into the next portion of the second phase of vaccine distribution, health officials have estimated that allowing Oklahomans under 65 with comorbidities to sign up for appointments expands access to about 1 million.
Adding teachers and support staff, who also will be eligible beginning Monday, expands access for another 89,000 people, officials have said.
“This portion of Phase 2 will likely take some time to complete,” Reed said last week. “Even if you are eligible, it may be some time before you are able to get your appointment.”