State grapples with requiring proof of pre-existing conditions during next COVID-19 vaccine rollout phase

State grapples with requiring proof of pre-existing conditions during next COVID-19 vaccine rollout phase

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The State Department of Health is keeping its focus on vaccinating those 65 and up, but up next will be people over the age of 16 with comorbidities.

The state says they’ve gone back and forth on how Oklahomans will be able to show they have comorbidities – the simultaneous presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient – but ultimately they’re hoping healthcare partners will help them out.

“We definitely want to make sure that we’re partnering with cancer centers, with dialysis centers, those groups that are actually providing care to people that fall into many of these categories,” said Keith Reed, Oklahoma State Department of Health Deputy Commissioner.

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As of Friday, Oklahoma is in Phase 2 of vaccine distribution. But not everyone in Phase 2 can get a vaccine just yet. 

The state is still focused on vaccinating those 65 or older, but up next will be Oklahomans 16 and up with comorbidities.

“We’re looking for honesty from Oklahomans that they are accurately reporting their situation,” Reed said.

When you fill out your information on the state’s vaccine portal, you will be asked whether you have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, cancers, heart disease, obesity and others.

By answering these questions, the state can determine if you would be put into Phase 2 for comorbidities on the vaccine portal.

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“We’ve had discussions about should you have a doctor’s note, somebody bringing a prescription bottle, some other documentation from their provider, and we have considered those options,” Reed said.

But Reed says not everyone has access to a healthcare provider who can prove they have comorbidities.

Which is why it’s more likely the state will rely on an honor system.

“I don’t think we’re gonna have comorbidity police at vaccination sites to make people prove with medical records or anything else,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Health Chief Quality Officer.

Reed also addressed the state’s plan to hopefully bring in vaccine mega pods. The Oklahoma City-County Health Department announced on Thursday they applied for a federal mega pod, which could vaccinate around 35,000 people each day.  Reed said it’s a high priority.

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“However, I do want to caution that this request is pending and not yet approved, nor is it guaranteed,” Reed said. “I think we must be realistic that this opportunity may be farther away than we would all like.”

Reed says the state has now given first vaccine doses to 40 percent of individuals over the age of 65.

Also, next week is when some Walmarts and individual pharmacies will start receiving vaccines. Oklahoma State Department of Health officials say they will release more information when it becomes available.

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