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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As thousands of Oklahomans continue to be vaccinated against COVID-19, state health leaders say they are preparing to move on to next and last phase of Oklahoma’s vaccination plan.

So far, the Oklahoma State Department of Health says almost 1.7 million Oklahomans have already received at least one dose of the vaccine.

In all, almost 71% of Oklahomans over the age of 65 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Deputy Commissioner of Health Keith Reed says that hospitalizations are steadily declining as vaccine supply grows.

Beginning Monday, March 29, the Oklahoma State Department of Health says they will begin Phase 4 of the distribution plan.

As a result, the COVID-19 vaccine will be open to all Oklahomans who are 16-years-old or older.

“We have all been looking forward to this day for a long time. All Oklahomans will be eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment through the state, regardless of your priority group. No more screening for eligibility groups. No more need for personal contemplation about whether you are eligible or should get the vaccine,” said Reed. “If you are over 16 and live in Oklahoma, you are eligible and should get vaccinated.”

Officials say open vaccine appointments will begin appearing on the state’s portal on Monday, so Oklahomans who have not registered already are encouraged to do so now.

“I want to encourage everyone to schedule an appointment as soon as possible as we look to continue making progress toward a new normal. Our work isn’t done yet,” he added.

As all Oklahomans become eligible to receive the vaccine, authorities say it may be a struggle for some to find open appointments.

Reed suggests visiting the VaccineFinder to locate available appointments around the state if you cannot find an open appointment on the portal.

“Now that there are three vaccines available and our supply is consistent and growing, we are able to continue opening up more access points to make the vaccine readily available around the state,” he said.

Health leaders also stress that even if you have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, your body will not produce the optimal response to the virus until two weeks after that second dose.

At the same time, they say it is not time to let your guard down in public places.

“There are still others around us who might not be vaccinated yet. Let’s continue to mask up in public places, and be mindful of the CDC’s recommendations as the remainder of Oklahomans schedule their appointments,” he said.

Reed says that officials aren’t sure when Oklahoma will reach herd immunity against COVID-19, but that we are making progress toward that goal.

“I want to remind everyone that this pandemic has required a marathon response. We are poised to finish strong, but we haven’t crossed that finish line yet. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, please take action to do so now. Let’s not leave this virus an opportunity to resurge. Let’s shut it down,” he said.