County health officials hope to address what they described Monday as a "high demand" for the COVID-19 vaccinations among area residents 65 years and older with vaccination clinics this week.
Three appointment-only events are planned — two at Muskogee County Health Department which are already booked up — and another on Friday, when they plan to vaccinate 200 people an hour at Muskogee Civic Center. Due to a mandatory post-vaccination observation period and space limitations, the local health department has been able to vaccinate only 10 to 20 people an hour.
Kelly Martin, administrative programs officer at Muskogee County Health Department, quelled concerns about the Civic Center clinic becoming a source of community transmission. In addition to the requirement for appointments, those scheduled for vaccinations will be required to complete paperwork while waiting in vehicles and comply with pandemic protocols while inside the building.
"Our concern will be the traffic, parking, and how we can maintain that — we are taking all of that into consideration," Martin said. "But they really feel like we need to get this vaccine into arms, and that is what we are going to do."
Martin said those who enter the building after completing the required paperwork must wear masks and continue to "social distance the best we can." She expressed confidence about the department capability of ensuring the safety of those who participate.
The vaccination clinic will be available to first responders, health care workers who do not work in hospitals, and residents who are 65 years and older. City and county officials urged residents who are ineligible for second-phase vaccinations to avoid calling county health departments, and nobody should show up without scheduling an appointment.
Martin told Muskogee County commissioners the rollout of this vaccination program began Saturday at eight departments across District 4 and will continue to ramp up through the week. She said about two dozen nurses and clerical staff from those departments will staff the clinic Friday at Muskogee Civic Center.
District 3 Commissioner Kenny Payne acknowledged the hard work of county health officials and others who have been treating record numbers of COVID-19 patients as Americans enter the 10th month of the pandemic. He said these vaccinations "are more than just sticking people in the arms" because they put health department workers at risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus.
Mayor Marlon Coleman urged residents to exercise patience as the vaccination program is ramped up and limited amounts of the vaccines are made available to larger segments of the population. He said county health workers are "doing what they can to accommodate residents," working "after hours and sacrificing family time."
Ward IV Councilor Tracy Hoos, a local physician, said the ability to schedule a vaccination clinic like the one planned Friday is a testament to the planning and work being done locally. He said the fact that Muskogee County Health Department is able to begin second-phase vaccinations "is amazing."
"A lot of counties are still a long ways away from being able to do this," Hoos said, noting those who participate must be aware of the mandatory observation period of at least 15 minutes.
Ramping up the delivery of vaccinations come as the state's seven-day rolling average for new cases continues to hover around 3,500 a day and new COVID-related deaths continue to mount.
Tyler Evans, emergency management director for the city, reported Monday night there were 617 active cases in Muskogee, where 16 deaths have been reported during the past month. There have been 2,552 deaths linked to the coronavirus reported in the state since March, and nearly 306,800 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
COVID-19 vaccination clinic
WHO: Muskogee County Health Department.
WHAT: COVID-19 Vaccine POD.
WHEN: From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Muskogee Civic Center, 425 Boston St.
INFORMATION: Appointments must be scheduled in advance by calling (918) 683-0321 or (918) 912-2160 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Callers are being urged to exercise patience due to "an extreme amount of calls."