“Get it as soon as you can,” OMRF President talks getting vaccines to rural communities

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is gaining some momentum in Oklahoma as healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents continue to get vaccinated. 

However, it might not be easy for everyone to get the shots. 

“There’s certainly going to be cases where even people who want the vaccine, the logistics of it would just be too complicated,” said President of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Dr. Stephen Prescott. 

Rural communities make up most of our state, so it’s a demographic health leaders are focused on. 

A recent map released by NBC News shows a breakdown of counties across the country, and how close the residents are to a pharmacy that could administer the vaccine. 

Pharmacy desert map courtesy of NBC

The map shows that in Oklahoma County, 96% of resident live within 5 miles of a participating pharmacy. 

In counties like Roger Mills and Greer, the percentage is zero. 

“In some ways they’re at greater risk for severe illness and dying because of their separation from healthcare facilities as well,” said Dr. Prescott. “The same is true of pre-existing health conditions- if you look at maps of Oklahoma where we have heart disease, lung disease, lots of smoking, it’s disproportionately in rural areas.”

So as more vaccines become available, and we get to that phase of our rollout plan, how do we get them to our rural communities?

Dr. Prescott says he doesn’t know quite yet of any concrete ideas, but it could be something like setting up mobile sites, like we did for testing. 

“I know it’s been discussed, and I bet there will be some sort of, ‘okay, you know, on Saturday we’ll have a facility in the parking lot at the high school,’ or something along those lines,” he said. 

Once they are available in those areas (and across the state), he highly recommends getting vaccinated. 

“Get it as soon as you can, follow all the rules and guidelines, and that’s how we’re going to get out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Prescott. 

For more about OMRF, visit their website.

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