OKLAHOMA CITY — An additional infusion of COVID-19 vaccines is expected in Oklahoma starting next week, after state health officials said Wednesday that they have opted into President Joe Biden’s federal retail pharmacy program.
Keith Reed, deputy health commissioner, said the state is partnering with select Walmart and CPESN — Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network — pharmacies to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma. The program is a collaboration between the federal government, the state and national and independent pharmacy networks.
Later next week, roughly 11,500 extra COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed among 75 participating pharmacy locations, Reed said. He did not know yet which specific Oklahoma pharmacy locations would be part of the initial rollout.
“They’re going to have limited doses,” Reed said. “It’s important that everybody understand that. You’re talking maybe 100 or 200 doses in some of these facilities. It’s enough for them to work through the week.”
The infusion of pharmacy doses will be in addition to the weekly vaccination supply Oklahoma currently receives from the federal government, which Reed said are expected to increase by 5% next week.
Nationwide, Biden’s administration said it plans to distribute 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to participating pharmacies, Reed said. Oklahoma’s share of the pharmacy allocation will be based off its overall population.
Oklahoma’s participating pharmacies will be following the state’s priority vaccination plan. Currently, health care workers, first responders and residents over the age of 65 are eligible.
The pharmacies will be responsible for setting up appointments, and Walmart has announced plans to schedule them using its website, Reed said.
“This is an additional program,” Reed said. “It’s additive to what we’re doing, and there’s going to be some limited doses while this gets up and running. Many pharmacies still will not have vaccine even as this program rolls out.”
As of Wednesday, about 12% of the state’s population over the age of 16 had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials said.
Health officials also said vaccine demand continues to exceed supply, and they plan to give Oklahomans over the age of 65 additional time to access the vaccine before opening availability to the next phases — Oklahomans with comorbidities and then school teachers and staff.
“We’re excited for this opportunity to open up more access points for the vaccine,” Reed said.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.