Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

A Griffin Memorial Hospital employee holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

As the Cleveland County Health Department begins the second phase in its COVID-19 vaccine administration this week, Norman residents may be wondering how and when they’ll be able to get vaccinated.

The vaccine clinic that will take place this week is already full with no more available slots for registration, though more clinics and slots will be announced in the coming weeks.

The first vaccination clinic will take place at Sooner Mall in Norman from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Read on to learn more about who can be vaccinated in Phase 2, how to sign up, and what to expect.

Who qualifies for phase 2?

Individuals who qualify for the vaccine will be first responders, healthcare workers and individuals who are 65 years of age or older.

Although Phase 2 also includes younger people with comorbidities and pre-K-12 teachers, the tiered approach within Phase 2 gives those first responders, health care workers and individuals who are 65 and older the chance to get vaccinated first.

CCHD spokesperson Sara King said that some confusion was created because the state lumped those who are 65 and older together with those who are younger with comorbidities, but due to the current supply available, wants to ensure that first responders, healthcare workers and those 65 and older get the vaccine first.

“Now, we anticipate being able to open it up to those of comorbidities within the next few weeks,” King said. “By the nature of the listing, that’s who our next group is going to be. But right now we’re trying to finish up those initial groups from that first part of phase two.”

Once supply allows, those who have comorbidities that make them more susceptible to COVID-19 will be able to receive the COVID vaccine. Following them, as supply allows, teachers will then be able to receive the vaccine.

How do I register?

While the CCHD received criticism on social media over the weekend for its vaccination sign-up process, King said that was never a long-term solution. Over the weekend, the department posted a link on Facebook to a Sign-Up Genius page where individuals could register to receive the vaccine.

The signup slots filled up quickly as the demand for the vaccine was high among individuals who are eligible.

“That was our short-term solution to be able to start getting vaccines out while needing to have some sort of streamlined signup process,” King said.

For the time being, those who are eligible for the vaccine do need to continue watching the CCHD Facebook page for information about vaccine sign-ups, King said. She noted that the department hopes that in the coming weeks, this will no longer be necessary.

The statewide portal that is being created by the Oklahoma State Department of Health will allow individuals to find out what phase of the vaccination process they fall under and receive notifications when the clinics are open to their specific group, King said.

The portal is expected to be up and running by Thursday, King said.

“Once this centralized portal is set up, they’ll be able to access data online,” King said. “From that they can sign up for whatever clinic appointment is available in their area (and) in the state and it should be set up to notify them.”

What should I expect when I go to get vaccinated?

Starting on Tuesday at Sooner Mall, there will be traffic signs and clearly-marked stations where people will wait until they are notified it is their turn to get vaccinated, King said.

“So, they’ll come in and they have a couple documents of information that they’ll need to fill out,” she said. “They need to be prepared to let us know whether or not they’ve ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine previously or have had any major allergic reactions.”

Allergy information is required because it determines whether or not a vaccine recipient should be monitored for 15 or 30 minutes after receiving the COVID vaccine, she said.

During each clinic day, the department hopes to take 30 appointments per 15-minute time slot, with hopes of vaccinating between 1,000 and 1,200 people a day, King said.

What are the logistics?

The vaccine that will be distributed at the CCHD clinics will be the Moderna vaccine due to the immense amount of people the department plans on vaccinating, King said.

“Once the [Moderna vaccine] is taken out of the freezer, it can go 30 days instead of five, so we don’t have to be quite as rigid about all of that,” King said.

With this being one of the most significant vaccine rollouts in the last century, everyone is having to try things out and learn as they go, King said.

“Just because we have fluid plans does not mean we don’t have plans,” King said. “Just because we modify from this point what our clinics look like, whether we do it drive thru, whether we do regular clinics at a health department, or we do pods like we’re going to do at Sooner Mall, options are still there on the table at all times.”

For the foreseeable future, CCHD plans to hold the clinic at Sooner Mall and is looking to set up other recurring clinics that will be roughly in the same spot, King said.

“So, that means for the foreseeable next few weeks, we’re going to be running that regular clinic at Sooner Mall during the weekday and have that availability,” King said.

King said she wants people to remember that although the vaccine sign-ups seemed to fill up quickly, the department is not trying to “hoard” the vaccine — it is being administered to people within the community.

“We really want to stress that while our appointments are based on vaccine supply, we anticipate having regular shipments of these vaccines to continuously offer these appointments,” King said. “I would hope that we can kind of band together in this time, and at least celebrate the movement that is happening for our community members who are able to access the vaccine.”

Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at rgorman@normantranscript.com or @reeseg_3.

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Staff Writer

Reese Gorman covers elections, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic for The Norman Transcript. He started as an intern in May of 2020 and transitioned into his current position as a staff writer in August of 2020.