AARP, health care officials field questions on vaccine

AARP Oklahoma Director Sean Voskul fields questions during an AARP Oklahoma Facebook town hall meeting.

"I don’t have a car; can I still get a vaccine?" "In what category do I fall?" "I have an allergy; can I take the vaccine?" "When is the best time to schedule?" "Why can’t I find a location to get the vaccine?"

These are a handful of questions that AARP Oklahoma Director Sean Voskul fielded during a recent AARP Oklahoma Facebook town hall.

Stephen Prescott of Oklahoma Medical Research Organization and Mindy Spohn, COVID-19 vaccination facilitator with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, gave updates on the state of the vaccine and answered questions from the public.

When asked if people can be carriers of the virus, even after they have taken the vaccine, Prescott responded that they don't know.

“We are treating it as though, yes, we can. We are hopeful that when you are well-immunized, you won’t be a carrier. We are months away from that,” said Prescott.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated it will take 10 days after the second booster before the inoculated will receive full immunity. He also said people who have previously contracted the virus should also get immunized.

“Yes, but that is something we don’t know for sure,” he said.

Prescott explained that scientists are currently studying people who have contracted the virus, and those who have a strong antibody response have a certain level of immunity. However, because these studies are premature, it is hard to know what the state of long-term immunity will be.

“Ultimately, we’ll recommend they get vaccinated, anyway, because it will give you a more robust and longer-lasting response,” Prescott added.

He also defined premorbidity, which is the state of functionality prior to the onset of disease or illness, and he noted those with lung disease, chronic asthma, congestive heart failure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and those who are obese, will have a higher risk of death when exposed to COVID-19.

Spohn updated attendees on the state of distribution within Oklahoma and indicated that they are toward the end of Phase 1.

“We are also still vaccinating health care workers, first responders – anybody from that Phase 1 piece up to the Phase 2 to the 65 and over,” she said.

The state is limited by its vaccine supplies. The Oklahoma State Department of Health is working with the federal government to procure a greater number of allotments.

“I feel like our states across the nation will see more supplies. That will allow us to open up to more providers,” said Spohn.

She is hoping that in the near future, Oklahomans will be able to go to their primary care physicians or a local pharmacy to obtain a vaccine.

“The reason we move into a point of distribution – pods – for a mechanism of delivery is that they’re quick. They can get large numbers of people in a safe manner,” she said.

The health department has introduced a scheduling system, which Spohn indicated has presented its own challenges.

“It’s not perfect, and it can be very frustrating to think, 'how am I going to get my shot?' We will begin seeing it at pharmacies, primary care physicians, and at urgent cares soon. That’s my goal as vaccine facilitator of the state,” she said.

OSDH receives information on the size of the allotment every Tuesday, so by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, they divide their allotment to sites throughout the state.

“We have been planning contingencies for large amounts and small amounts, but we are not going to put them in warehouses; we are going to distribute them,” said Spohn.

AARP is a nonpartisan member organization that has been working to promote the well-being of older Americans for over 60 years.

Learn more

Those with specific questions are encouraged to call 211 to receive information on the vaccine. The town hall is posted in full on AARP Oklahoma’s Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/AARPOK.

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