OSDH Deputy Commissioner testifies at federal House Committee on COVID-19 rollout, vaccine uptake
Testimony will help inform committee’s work on COVID-19 recovery and strategies for increased vaccine uptake
OKLAHOMA CITY — Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed testified at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing today about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and rollout in Oklahoma on behalf of the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
At the hearing, titled “The Science of COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Vaccine Uptake,” Reed testified about challenges and successes in Oklahoma’s vaccine distribution and rollout, as well as public outreach steps OSDH has been taking.
In this initial stage of vaccine distribution where demand is greater than supply, Oklahoma has found success in hedging the initial uptake issues by taking an overlapping approach. In order to vaccinate as many Oklahomans as possible, OSDH has opened eligibility to new priority groups before entirely vaccinating earlier groups. Collaboration with local partners and health departments has also been key in ensuring a flexible, efficient rollout.
In recent weeks, Oklahoma has consistently remained in the top 10 nationally for pace of vaccine distribution.
“Until every Oklahoman is able to access the vaccine if they want it, there’s still work to be done,” Reed said. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to continue opening new access points to the vaccine as production and supply increase over the coming weeks and months.”
The testimony also covered reasons for vaccine hesitancy and potential solutions. As of January, an OSDH survey determined that while most people are willing to receive the vaccine at some point, roughly 33% of Oklahomans don’t plan to do so.
Oklahoma’s unique landscape poses a particular set of challenges in serving rural and underserved communities during COVID-19. Many Oklahomans lack internet access, particularly in rural areas with limited reception, or lack digital literacy, particularly in the 65+ community who are some of the most at-risk for COVID-19. Some in communities of color are wary of vaccines due to a history of medical mistreatment. There is also the fear of being targeted due to immigration status or disclosure of race or ethnicity.
“There are a lot of reasons for vaccine hesitancy, and most of them are rooted in very valid concerns,” said Reed. “Our goal with vaccine rollout is to address these concerns in a clear and compassionate way and provide accurate information about vaccine safety and efficacy. Our partnerships with local entities have been invaluable in contributing to a much smoother rollout process and ensuring everyone’s health and safety when they receive the vaccine.”
The testimony Reed provided to the House committee will be used to inform the committee’s work on our national recovery from COVID-19, strategies for increasing vaccine uptake, and how scientists and vaccine developers are responding to new variants of the virus.
A recording of the testimony can be viewed at: https://www.congress.gov/committees/video/house-science-space-and-technology/hssy00.