City forges partnerships to expand vaccination efforts

D.E. Smoot, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.
·3 min read

Mar. 6—City officials will open the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center as a vaccination site for the county's underserved and minority populations.

The COVID-19 vaccination POD will open Thursday by appointment only. The point of dispensing site is the product of a partnership the city has with Muskogee County Health Department, Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee, several local pharmacies, area churches and nonprofit corporations.

The first of the weekly PODs will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, and it will continue each week thereafter until further notice. Muskogee County Health Department plans to vaccinate 300 residents the first week and administer 500 doses each of the following weeks.

All appointments and the number of doses administered will be subject to the vaccine's availability. But state health officials said an equilibrium in the vaccine supply chain could be reached during the coming weeks as a third product hits the market and manufacturers ramp up production of the first two vaccines approved for emergency use.

Deputy Mayor Derrick Reed said opening the King Center as a vaccination POD gives "a voice to the voiceless" — residents who lacked internet access, the technology or skills to navigate the online portal set up by the state to schedule vaccinations. After fielding calls from those constituents, Reed said he sent up a "clarion call" to Rep. Avery Frix, who helped coordinate efforts at the state level.

"I believe this vaccine is the road that will lead us back to normalcy," Reed said. "Like Mayor (Marlon) Coleman, I have received both of my vaccinations, and I didn't have any side effects ..., so I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity."

Coleman said the city also partnered with several pharmacies that will help distribute COVID-19 vaccines to area residents. Residents are encouraged to contact the location of their choice to learn about the hours of operation and details about vaccine availability.

The mayor said he hopes the addition of the community center as a vaccination site will help the city "get as close as we can to have 50% to 60% of our community vaccinated by the beginning of May." He said that would depend on vaccine availability and the willingness of residents to get vaccinated.

"I want to make a direct appeal to the African-American community and other communities of color," Coleman said. "Living in fear of the vaccine pales in comparison to what would happen if you actually contracted COVID-19."

Coleman said he had both rounds of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccination and experienced no negative reaction. Reed said he was administered both rounds of the vaccine developed and manufactured by Moderna.

Frix said Oklahoma State Health Department officials stepped "up to the challenge" when city officials made what he described as "a pretty significant request." He said vaccines that will be administered by local pharmacies and at other sites containing both state and federal allotments.

"Our goal is to get as many points to the community as we can," Frix said. "We want the residents who wish to get the vaccine to receive the vaccine."

Dr. Daniel Ortiz, OSDH regional epidemiologist at Sallisaw, said he is "excited about the partnerships" that will provide more vaccination opportunities for communities that have been underserved in the past. He said the growing number of community partners administering the vaccine "it's going to start opening up for many people who have had difficulty scheduling an appointment."

Some of those community partners include:

Ernie's Pharmacy & Wellness Center Inc.

Cornerstone Specialty Hospitals of Muskogee

Economy Pharmacy Inc.

Fresenius Medical Care Tulsa LLC dba FKC Muskogee Dialysis

Gaddy's Discount Drug

Muskogee County Health Department

Saint Francis Hospital in Muskogee

Scotts Valu-Med Pharmacy

AVVHealth Center Muskogee West

Eddie Warrior Correctional Center

Fort Gibson Medical Center

Neo Health — Muskogee

Valu-Med Pharmacy

Walgreens/Pharmacy #10223

Walgreens/Pharmacy #5529

Walmart Supercenter #130

Warner Health and Wellness