By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Many Canadian County residents are facing challenges getting a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
Those without internet access must rely on someone else since vaccination appointments are scheduled through the Oklahoma State Health Department’s online portal.
So, members of the Yukon COVID-19 Task Force are asking residents who know people without internet or anyone who isn’t Internet-savvy to offer to help scheduling their appointments. This is especially true for the older population included in the current round of vaccinations.
“The biggest challenge is getting registered for an appointment,” said Maggie Jackson, community engagement and planning director at the Canadian County Health Department.
“We’re very aware. We have seniors calling every day in the hundreds and thousands.
“The call volume has tapered down a bit because people have eventually been able to get in (online) and get an appointment. The barrier with internet and email is just frustrating for all of us.”
Oklahomans 65 and above – along with first responders and front-line healthcare providers who haven’t received the COVID-19 shot – should make vaccine appointments at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov
“They’re filling up so quickly,” Jackson said, during her report at the Feb. 3rd Yukon COVID-19 Task Force meeting.
People without internet access may call the CCHD at (405) 354-4872 or dial 211 for more information. These callers without internet access or any other options are placed on a waiting list.
County health department personnel are frustrated because they have limited ability to help people make appointments through the portal.
“We are not able to just take someone’s name and number and put them in the system,” Jackson said. “We feel that’s caused some inequities in the sense of getting a vaccine. It really is the people that have Internet, have a kiddo that can help them, or a neighbor that can help them. That’s who’s able to get in.
“If there’s a ‘partner’ who’s able and willing to help them get registered, that is great. Because then when we know we have a vaccine, we know when we can get them in, and we know they can expect an appointment.”
Some 14,000 people have been vaccinated so far in Canadian County. The new COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, Jackson added.
Yukon COVID-19 Task Force member Don Blose, a former state immunization director, said senior citizens must be proactive.
“If they have family members or somebody who’s good with technology, they should be asking and making those requests (for help registering),” said Blose, CEO of Spanish Cove Retirement Village. “They need to be seeking it out on their own.”
Yukon City Manager Tammy Kretchmar said Yukon residents without internet are welcome to register for the vaccine using public access computers at the Mabel C. Fry Public Library, 1200 Lakeshore.
Statewide, about 30% of the 65-and-over population has received the COVID-19 vaccine – and Yukon COVID-19 Task Force members know much more need to get their shots.
The next phase of the vaccine roll-out includes Oklahomans under 65 with comorbidities.
“We’re getting so many people who really need the vaccine in that group,” Jackson said.
“They’re going to wait until we have a threshold of percentage of seniors. We know there will be some (over 65) that don’t want the vaccine still. But we’re looking for a significant percentage of that group.”
Schools are eager to have their teachers vaccinated – but the barrier is getting enough of the other high-risk populations.
Canadian County is seeing a decline in the trend of average daily COVID-19 cases.
“That’s really encouraging,” Jackson said. “We don’t really know how much of that is vaccine related.”
The health department has moved its Canadian County vaccination site to a Mustang church, open from 8 a.m. to noon daily.
CCHD officials want to partner with a Yukon-area church to provide another “pod” serving underserved minority groups, Jackson added.
THIS AND THAT …
Other newsworthy items from the Feb. 3rd Yukon COVID-19 Task Force meeting:
• INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital was at 97% capacity Feb. 4, hospital President Teresa Gray reported – as hospitalizations drop statewide. There were 16 COVID-19 patients and 12 infectious (positive tests, symptomatic) at the Yukon hospital, 1201 Health Center Parkway. Four ICVH caregivers were out positive.
• A second vaccination clinic is this Saturday at Yukon’s Spanish Cove Retirement Village. CEO Blose expects about 99% of residents and some 70-75% of staff to have received the COVID-19 vaccine once the clinics end. The Cove is encouraging – but not mandating – that residents and employees get COVID-19 shots.
• All City of Yukon special events for February were canceled. The annual Trout Fish Out on March 6 is still on because it’s an outdoors event – but it appears the annual Taste of Yukon won’t happen.
COVID-19 numbers are dropping in Yukon and Canadian County.
“That’s the good news,” Mayor Shelli Selby said. “But we need to remain vigilant in being safe. It’s still a virus and people still get very sick and people still die from that.”