Oklahomans will be able to schedule an appointment to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, when it’s their turn, on Thursday.
Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye and Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed held a virtual news conference Monday to announce the upcoming launch of the Vaccine Scheduling Appointment App, or VSAA.
The online tool will go live as the state begins Phase 2 of its vaccine distribution plan. Although Phase 1, which includes frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents is not finished statewide, Reed said areas that are ready to move forward are welcome to do so.
“We didn’t want to leave vaccine in the freezer. We want to put it in people’s arms,” he said. “So, we weren’t going to wait on technology to give us the green light to move forward.”
First responders and individuals over 65 years old are next to be eligible for shots.
The scheduling app will allow anyone eligible for the shots to make an appointment at one of nearly 100 PODs, or Points of Distribution, which will eventually be scattered across the state.
Reed said the state is dependent on updates every Tuesday from the federal government, which detail how many doses Oklahoma will receive the following week.
“I can’t tell you how many PODS that will (be) included yet. I can’t tell you how many appointments that will be involved next week,” Reed said. “We can’t keep opening up appointments weeks ahead. We have to do this, right now, one week at a time.”
The app launch was delayed by “a few days” Reed said. Initially the state intended on using an online application developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but then pivoted to work with Microsoft.
“We felt like that wasn’t right for Oklahoma,” Reed said of the CDC application.
Because of the delayed launch, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department said it plans to launch its own schedule tool for the immediate future on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the department said OCCHD will eventually use the state’s app for scheduling.
On the other hand, the health departments of counties surrounding Oklahoma County will not schedule appointments for next week until VSAA is launched.
“We’re expecting that to happen Thursday. If, for some the reason, something does go wrong, we’ll pivot,” said Sara King, a spokesperson for Region 6, which includes Cleveland, McClain, Canadian, Logan, Lincoln and Pottawatomie Counties.
Until now, the region has used the free online tool SignUpGenius to schedule appointments.
“We want to streamline this as much as possible,” King said in a Facebook Live video posted Monday to the Cleveland County Health Department page.
Health officials encourage Oklahomans to schedule a vaccination, when eligible, through their local health department rather than traveling to another county.
For a list of every county health department in Oklahoma, and their social media page, click here.