FDA approves Oklahoma pandemic center for COVID-19 sequencing research as vaccinations continue across the state

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State health leaders provided updates on our state’s vaccine efforts Thursday. 

As the vaccine rollout continues across Oklahoma, state health leaders say they’re close to being caught up after last week’s winter storm delays. 

“The best vaccine choice for you is the one that you can get tomorrow,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor. 

Potential good news on the horizon, as the FDA is expected to approve Johnson and Johnson’s one dose shot any day now. 

“It adds to our options, it adds to our inventory – this one is logistically much easier to handle,” said OSDH Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed. 

If approved, Reed says initial estimates show Oklahoma would get around 30,000 doses of the new shot. 

Without the need for extremely cold storage or a booster shot, it should be easier to administer. 

“Since you don’t have a booster requirement for that, you don’t have a booster problem,” said Reed. 

At the same time, the FDA has approved Oklahoma’s new pandemic center for a method known as sequencing. 

“The Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence has received EUA approval from the FDA for sequencing processes that are going to be used for sequencing viral genomes from the SARS-CoV-2 isolates that cause the virus of COVID,” said Dr. Taylor. 

It would give researchers a faster and deeper look into the genetics of COVID-19 and the new variants that are spreading around the globe. 

Dr. Taylor says that level of understanding is crucial. 

“I think what we’re excited about is being able to identify the extent of their penetration is in Oklahoma as well as to do more real time investigation of transmission dynamics,” said Taylor. 

The sequencing could start in as early as two weeks. 

Right now, they’re sequencing less than one percent of positive COVID-19 tests because their process requires them to go through the CDC.  

Their goal now is ten percent. 

“These expanded capabilities, we’re going to be able to identify and track new strains much more rapidly and at a much larger rate and much more meaningful rate,” said Dr. Taylor. 

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