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County, city, tribes unite to roll out vaccine

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
At left is Pottawatomie County Emergency Manager Chad Larman and with him is Shawnee Emergency Manager Rachelle Erickson. The pair, along with several other state, local and tribal officials, have prepared Citizen Potawatomi Nation's (CPN) FireLake Arena as a staging area for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Vaccination is by appointment only. Visit vaccinate.oklahoma.gov.

On Thursday, hundreds of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were making their way into the arms of Phase 2-eligible residents. By appointment only, participants were ushered through a vaccination and observation process at Citizen Potawatomi Nation's (CPN) FireLake Arena.

State, county, city and tribal leaders have all been working together to organize and execute distribution of the vaccine locally.

Between 9 a.m and 4 p.m. each Thursday, those with appointments will

Shawnee Emergency Manager Rachelle Erickson said all the available slots for appointments filled up Thursday's slate in less than half an hour.

Keeping with appropriate spacing requirements, in 15-minute slots, 25 residents at a time were funneled into a section of the arena foyer to receive their first dose (a shot administered in the arm), and then moved to a second area for 15 minutes of observation, as required by the CDC.

Erickson said those at higher risk (of adverse reactions to vaccines in general) were being kept under observation for 30 minutes.

Throughout the day, a staff member hired solely to disinfect the area, dispersed a product that kills the virus within 60 seconds, CPN Director of Housekeeping/Safety Tim Zientek said.

Between officials, nurses, first responders and cleaners, there were approximately 50 on staff for the event, he said.

Erickson said members of the Shawnee Fire Department helped monitor reactions and traffic.

According to the CDC, the rollout is being achieved in phases.

Erickson said the shift in phases is dictated by the state. Local officials are responsible for executing distribution as they get doses allotted to them. The two vaccines approved in December are Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Each requires two shots. The second dose is typically given three or four weeks after the first.

When a first dose is given, its counterpart — the booster — is set aside to be administered a few weeks later, soon-to-be County Emergency Manager Chad Larman (job becomes official Monday).

They are set aside, tagged for us and stored by the state until it's time to use them, he said.

Phase 1

Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout has already been underway since the vaccine became available in December. It was namely for those tasked with caring for residents – health care personnel, first responders – and nursing home residents and staff.

Phase 2 eligibility (currently ongoing)

Phase 2 is aimed at vaccinating K-12 teachers, school staff and child care workers; those at high risk of exposure (like detention center workers); those with comorbidities (multiple health issues putting them at higher risk); and older residents.

Phase 3

Phase 3 gets into the population of adults younger than 65 and children.

Phase 4

Erickson said the timeframe for vaccinating the general population (everyone who didn't previously fit into eligibility requirements for Phases 1-3) is tentatively set for some time around May.

Larman added it could be early summer.

Visit cdc.gov for fully-detailed descriptions of eligibility requirements.

To schedule an appointment, call the Pottawatomie County Health Department at (405) 273-2157 or visit vaccinate.oklahoma.gov.

Watch for updates.