In a Nov. 18 OU Staff Senate meeting, chair-elect Justin Daniels announced a university COVID-19 vaccination plan.
During the meeting, Daniels said OU Emergency Management met with the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday to discuss the vaccination plan for the campus.
"I can give you good news, I guess this is an announcement," Daniels said. "We have been talking with the State Department of Health and Emergency Management, we meet with the State Department of Health every two weeks, we met with them yesterday, there is a vaccination plan for the campus."
Although Daniels said "the plan is set and ready," the university issued a statement at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 20 saying the university "does not have a final COVID-19 vaccination plan" and "details are still yet to be finalized." The statement added the university expects to adhere to "general parameters set forth by the Oklahoma State Department of Health."
According to Daniels, the plan would begin around late January to early February 2021.
“The first part of the plan that will affect campus will not be until late phase one or early phase two,” Daniels said. “Which is our first responders, emergency management, fire and the health clinic.”
Daniels said faculty, staff and potentially individuals with comorbidities would start to receive vaccinations during phase three, set to be in spring of 2021. Students aged 18-25 with no comorbidities would not receive vaccinations until phase four during late summer to the fall.
“Plans are still being developed in regards to distribution,” Daniels said in an email to The Daily. “Our medical and emergency management staff will continue to work with the State Health Department to determine the best path forward for how the university community fits into the State of Oklahoma’s vaccine plan.”
“There is some discussion about whether or not we will require students to have a vaccine before they come back to campus,” Daniels said. “That may be difficult to do if we’re not quite at that phase four ready-level yet.”
According to Daniels, OSDH is only planning for a 40 percent order of vaccines due to the number of individuals expected to want the vaccine at the beginning of distribution.
“They do expect that as people start getting it and they see that everyone’s fine and no one’s growing a third arm or anything, other people will want to start to get the vaccine,” Daniels said. “It’s going to roll out slowly.”
During a Nov. 16 press conference, Governor Kevin Stitt said “a vaccine is on its way, but we need to buckle down until then.”
“We've got a great plan on vaccinations and we're going to prioritize our health care workers and our long term care facilities, (for the) first batch (of) 2000 samples,” Stitt said. “I'm recommending that everybody get it once it's available and follow (their) doctor's recommendations.”
Daniels said they are expecting emergency-use authorization on the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna vaccine, Johnson and Johnson vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a press release put out by Pfizer, the drug maker’s vaccine is 95 percent effective. Similarly, the Moderna vaccine has a 94.5 percent efficiency. According to an article by The New York Times, the “worsening pandemic” could speed up test results from Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca.
“As these other vaccines start to get approved, we could potentially pick up the pace on the introduction of each phase,” Daniels said. “Right now, we’re sticking with the plan and it looks like the first campus folks will be vaccinated right after the first of the year.”
According to Daniels, the Pfizer vaccine requires refrigeration at negative 80 degrees Celsius. Daniels said only five facilities in the state have this type of refrigeration: OU Health, Integris Baptist Hospital, Comanche County Hospital, Alliance Health in Durant and St. Francis in Tulsa.
Daniels said the first vaccinations would begin in December starting with emergency-use authorization in the next couple of weeks. Once the five locations have the vaccines on hand, distribution would begin within 24 hours according to Daniels.
Daniels said wide distribution to campus would not begin for the next couple of months, he hopes other vaccines requiring less refrigeration will become available in the meantime.
“The Moderna vaccine only requires negative 20 degrees Celsius, which we have, and we're ready for that,” Daniels said. “The Johnson and Johnson vaccine, in addition to not requiring quite as much cold, only requires one shot. The AstraZeneca one requires refrigeration as well.”
According to Daniels, Oklahoma has a vaccine plan that would begin with emergency-use authorization likely to utilize the Pfizer vaccine. Daniel said it is predicted to begin in the next couple of weeks.
“Eventually, it's going to get all the way down to where we’re vaccinating those at very low risk, but we’re going to vaccinate them anyway,” Daniels says. “The plan really just makes sense. It’s a well thought out plan, and as far as when people could possibly get a vaccine will depend on how many of them get approval and how many doses we have available to us at any given time.”
Editor's note: This story was updated at 5 p.m. to include a statement from the university following Daniels' remarks.