Osage County vaccination rates continue to lag

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Vaccination rates in Osage County continued to lag behind rates for adjoining counties, according to the Jan. 16-22 epidemiology report issued Jan. 26 by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Osage County’s rates of fully vaccinated residents were 35.4 percent for the population aged 5 years and older, and 50.1 percent for the population aged 65 years and older.

Rates of fully vaccinated residents, aged 5 years and older, in adjoining counties were: 43.9 percent in Kay County; 51.1 percent in Pawnee County; 63.9 percent in Tulsa County; and 45.0 percent in Washington County.

Rates of fully vaccinated residents, aged 65 years and older were 74.7 percent in Kay County, 79.8 percent in Pawnee County, 91.7 percent in Tulsa County, and 70.3 percent in Washington County.

These figures partially described a COVID-19 situation in which the Omicron variant continued to spread throughout Oklahoma from Jan. 16-22. During that week, 77,306 new COVID-19 cases were reported statewide, an increase of 7.8 percent over the previous week. There were 171 new COVID-19 deaths in the Jan. 16-22 period.

During their Jan. 24 meeting, Osage County commissioners were told that the county Emergency Management director and the Health Department’s district public information officer both had figures available for the county’s COVID-19 infection situation, but the numbers did not match. An effort was to be made by Jan. 31 to reconcile the numbers.

Scott Haywood, the OSDH district public information officer, said health officials hoped the spread of the Omicron variant would peak during the week of Jan. 24-28.

Haywood also reported that the state had placed an order for additional COVID-19 rapid tests, but the tests had not arrived. He said that rapid tests already on-hand were being pushed out to school districts that had received grants to do COVID-19 testing. Nonetheless, persons experiencing COVID-19 symptoms could arrange to receive rapid testing at the county health department, he said.

District 1 County Commissioner Randall Jones emphasized the importance of rapid testing — even though the rapid tests are less accurate than lab-processed PCR tests — to managing the health situations of county employees as effectively as possible.

Haywood told the commissioners that about three-quarters of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oklahoma currently involve unvaccinated persons.

In other business Jan. 24, commissioners talked in executive session about hiring a caretaker for the Osage County Fairgrounds, but made no decision. The caretaker position doesn’t seem to stay filled, and management of the Fairgrounds is emerging as a campaign issue in the District 1 commissioner election this year.