Oklahoma health leaders concerned as COVID-19 cases stay stagnant while vaccine interest wanes

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It was mid-December when the first COVID-19 shot was given in Oklahoma. Now we’re reaching a big milestone in the amount of people getting vaccinated.

As of Thursday, nearly 25% of the state is fully vaccinated but health leaders in the state say it could take some before we hit 50%.

“I think we have slowed down considerably,” said OU Health’s Dr. Dale Bratzler.

But interest in the shot appears to be tapering off.

“I think all of us are aware that we’ve been seeing these large vaccination pods that aren’t filling up,” Bratzler said.

With the variants picking up in other states, like Michigan, there is concern the same thing could happen here– before we even hit herd immunity.

“If we saw a larger outbreak of the UK variant, as an example in Oklahoma, and we had a lot of people who did not have immunity, then yes it could spread quite rapidly,” Bratzler said.

Taking a look at the State Department of Health’s COVID-19 risk level map, since March 29th, central Oklahoma is at the yellow alert level. But this week, it’s back in the orange. With more than 14.29 cases per 100,000 people. 

“I think it’s an artifact of those 1200 additional cases that were reported by the state health department on April 7th. Remember there was one lab in the state that wasn’t giving all of their data to the state health department for positive COVID tests. On a single day, the state health department dumped all of that data into it,” Bratzler said.

Bratzler believes the numbers should come back down in the next week, causing those counties to change back to yellow.

But a big elephant in the room– the choice some Oklahomans are making to gather without a vaccine and without social distancing.

“People seem to be letting their guard down, not wearing masks,” Bratzler said. “It only takes a few super spreader events to really see a large increase in the number of cases… We could absolutely see the number of cases go back up again.”

Right now, Oklahoma isn’t doing much testing for variants.

But Bratzler says that should change soon, as the state’s new lab could have the potential to do up to 700 sequences per day.

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