- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The arrival of doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine in Oklahoma week will expedite the state’s effort to quickly deliver vaccinations because it doesn’t require the same ultra-cold storage as the Pfizer shot, health officials said Wednesday.

Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Oklahoma received 66,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week that will be distributed to more than 150 federally qualified health centers across the state.

“Moderna is much easier on the logistics side,” Reed said. “The Moderna vaccine gives us options to send it to locations that don’t have the storage facilities for Pfizer.”

Reed said Oklahoma has received more than 131,000 total doses of both vaccines this week, and health officials have said people in the second phase of the vaccine distribution plan could begin receiving vaccinations as early as next week. That includes first responders such as police and firefighters, adults over 65 or with underlying health conditions, teachers and support staff in schools and health care settings.

Despite the hope the vaccine brings to the fight against the coronavirus, officials implored Oklahomans to continue practicing social distancing, mask wearing and good hand hygiene, and to avoid large gatherings at Christmas with people outside their immediate households.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said the metro area experienced spikes in coronavirus cases immediately after holidays such as Labor Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving.

“I have deep concerns about what a holiday spike, especially on top of a spike we already have, will do to our health care system,” Holt said. “At holidays, people gather with family members, especially from different generations, and let their guard down.

“Please do not bring death or illness upon yourself or those you love,” he said.

Meanwhile, state health officials reported 3,656 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 43 more deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 269,276 and the state’s death toll to 2,283. The true number of infections in Oklahoma is likely higher because many haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The seven-day rolling average for confirmed new cases and test positivity in Oklahoma has increased over the last two weeks, while the seven-day rolling average for daily deaths has dropped slightly during the same period, going from 23.43 deaths per day on Dec. 8 to 22 deaths per day on Dec. 22, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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