Oklahoma was a leader in vaccination rates but continues to fall behind the national average. Doctors said the drop is due to mistrust and misinformation.
Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows a sharp drop in mid-April of the total number of vaccines given in a week. Vaccinations peaked in March with 191,058 doses given in a week, then dropped to a low of 54,896 doses in May.
Dr. Mark Callery with the Utica Park Clinic in Owasso hopes to reverse the change.
"The more people we can get vaccinated, the closer we will get to returning back to life as normal," he said.
The decline in doses isn't unique to Oklahoma. CDC data shows a drop nationwide.
"They've read about things on the internet, and they have some legitimate concerns in their mind," Dr. Callery said of people who still have concerns. "Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out on the internet. We do spend some time answering that but a lot of times it's the simple things. Like, 'I'm worried about the side-effects,' or 'I'm worried about the cost.'"
The vaccine is free anywhere you go, but Callery said side-effects are actually his patients' number-one concern.
"We've been giving thousands, well millions of these vaccines across the country, and the vast majority have very little to no side-effects," Callery said.
He added that a vocal, but significantly smaller number of people have stirred concerns over side-effects.
Dr. Bruce Dart, the Tulsa Health Department director, also emphasized vaccine safety.
"Let's face it, the data has been very clear. Since we started giving the vaccine, it's proven to be as safe and effective as trials have shown," he said.
Though the data on vaccine efficacy may speak for itself, Dr. Callery said sometimes all it takes to change someone's mind is a simple, informed conversation between a doctor and their patient.
"Honestly, a lot of times once we answer those concerns, then they're agreeable and they're willing to go ahead and get it," Dr. Callery said.