Teachers and individuals with underlying health conditions will soon be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine despite their age.
State officials announced Thursday that two groups can begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Feb. 22.
The state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan is expanding to include pre-K through 12th grade teachers and school staff members as well as people under the age of 65 with comorbidities.
Comorbidities include, but are not limited to, people living with hypertension, chronic lung, liver disease and diabetes.
The inclusion of teachers, school staff and people under 65 with comorbidities is what officials said is an advancement in phase two of the state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
The expanded vaccine distribution is expected to include approximately 89,000 teachers and staff across the state. The state estimated the number of people under the age of 65 living with comorbidities is approximately 1,000,000 Oklahomans.
With nearly 50% of the 65 and older age group vaccinated, officials said they're ready to move into other groups.
“Teacher and school workers of all ages as well Oklahomans with commodities will be eligible for the vaccine starting February 22,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said.
This update is specifically for pre-K through 12th grade schools.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a statement Thursday:
"Our teachers and support staff deserve and need to work in a safe and secure environment. Giving them this opportunity to receive the vaccine as soon as reasonably possible is critical. While in-person school is more dependent on COVID mitigation strategies such as masks and social distancing , ensuring the vaccination of teachers is vital to keeping school doors open. I urge all Oklahomans, teachers and non-teachers alike, to welcome the vaccine as soon as they are eligible."
The state health department expects about a million people will be eligible in this next rollout. Several new PODs will be set up for a two to three week effort to vaccinate as many teachers as possible.
Secretary of Education Ryan Walters said this announcement moves schools one step closer to in-person learning.
“Too many parents have been robbed of their unique ability to make the best decisions for their kids. Today, we're moving one step closer to parents to giving parents back that decision,” Walters said.
The state health department said they can make exceptions to eligible health conditions if your health provider sees fit.