The effort to get Oklahomans vaccinated against COVID-19 is getting a major shot in the arm from the federal government. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday it's awarded the state more than $36 million to boost vaccine programs across the state.
The funding comes from the recently passed American Rescue Plan and is part of $3 billion going to 64 jurisdictions to bolster vaccine distribution, access, and administration among underserved populations.
"Tell all your friends to get the shot when they can," President Joe Biden told people at a Northern Virginia vaccination center Tuesday. A short time later, at the White House, the president announced that he was moving up the deadline for states to allow all adults to sign up for the vaccination.
"We're moving it up from May 1st to April 19th nationwide," Biden stated.
Oklahoma, of course, has already opened up vaccinations to all adults, and yet the state is seeing a slight drop-off in its vaccination rate – at least compared to other states. After hovering just inside the top ten for months, CDC numbers show the state is now 26th in the percentage of those with at least one dose, at 33%, and 22nd in percentage who are fully vaccinated: 21%.
"We do know, moving ahead, that it’s a different group of people that will be lining up to get vaccinated," said Keith Reed, deputy commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Health.
As the state's point person on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, Reed said it's time to adjust their strategy, to reach those who may not feel the urgency of getting vaccinated. He said the added funding is helpful.
"It helps us with our infrastructure to support our COVID response, it helps cover personnel costs," Reed said in an interview Tuesday, "it will help cover some of our technology costs, and hopefully some enhancements so that we can always improve our technological interface with the public."
The funding is intended to ensure health equity, which is why the CDC has put some restrictions on how the money can be spent:
·75% of the total funding must focus on specific programs and initiatives intended to increase vaccine access, acceptance, and uptake among racial and ethnic minority communities; and,
·60% must go to support local health departments, community-based organizations, and community health centers.
"We do need to move into these other access points," Reed said, "make sure all of our pharmacies have [the vaccine], our providers have it across the state, so it’s easy for somebody to get vaccinated."
The state will get the $36 million over the next three years. Reed said that makes sense, as all indications suggest that "COVID's going to be with us for a while."