Chief COVID-19 Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said OU Health is vaccinating less than half its estimated patient capacity due to limited vaccine doses provided by the federal government.
In a Jan. 8 email to The Daily, Bratzler wrote although OU Health informed the Oklahoma City-County Health Department it has the potential to be vaccinating anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 patients a week, the availability of doses provided by the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed has continued to be an obstacle.
President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed is holding back half of the national supply of vaccines to ensure individuals who receive the first vaccine shot will be able to complete the recommended two-shot treatment. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to release “nearly all available doses” closely following his Jan. 20 inauguration, giving some Oklahoma health leaders hope more vaccines will arrive soon.
“Our limitation right now is availability of vaccine doses. For example, OU Health offered to the Oklahoma City-County Health Department that we had reserved space and would be able to vaccinate 2,500 to 3,000 people a week for the next seven weeks, we have the space and volunteers ready,” Bratzler wrote. “But we are only going to get around 1,100 new doses this week to give. There is a lot more capacity to give vaccine than there are doses available right now.”
Bratzler wrote OU Health is currently in phase two of the Oklahoma State Department of Health vaccination plan — this week focusing on individuals aged 65 and older in Oklahoma County. OU Health will receive 1,170 doses, Bratzler wrote, but the sheer number of patients in the county will be difficult to effectively vaccinate without more doses.
“I think the Oklahoma City-County Health Department is only getting 6,000 doses total next week from OSDH,” Bratzler wrote. “Oklahoma County is the most populous county in the state so 6,000 doses is tragically small.”
Oklahoma County contains roughly 797,434 residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2019 population estimates, with individuals 65 and older making up roughly 111,640 of those.
Oklahoma City-County Health Department Chief Operating Officer Phil Maytubby said OU Health is not the only distributor hamstrung by a lack of doses in the county — or the state — though Oklahoma is currently ranked 14 of the 50 states in doses administered per 100,000 residents, according to the CDC.
“For our state, it's definitely an issue. We're just not getting enough volume here in the state of Oklahoma. We can be easily vaccinating four to five times as many people as we're vaccinating now,” Maytubby said. “We've seen this throughout all of our partners and yes, it's definitely an issue. We have people, we have a lot of good partners here, and everybody's good to go — we just need vaccine.”
Maytubby said he and other health leaders in Oklahoma have been in contact with state officials to appeal to Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation for more vaccine doses, with little success, but said he anticipates President-elect Biden’s administration will be more willing to provide the requested doses.
“We've had continuous working with our congressional delegation, but they can ask whatever they want to ask, it's the feds that are controlling it,” Maytubby said. “I do think that you'll see a big change. Once we have an administration change, we're expecting to get a lot more doses of (the) vaccine.”
Since OU Health is located in Oklahoma County, Bratzler wrote, its doses are provided through the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and are independent of any doses which may be provided to the OU-Norman campus through the Cleveland County Health Department.
The Daily requested information on the number of vaccine doses available through OU Health Services for the Norman campus. OU Director of Media Relations Kesha Keith wrote in an email that at this time, “the university does not intend to announce” the number of available doses “as part of its security protocols.”
Editor's note: This article was updated to correct the capacity number given by Dr. Bratzler to reflect a weekly maximum of patients.