TULSA, Okla. — Dr. Jeffrey Galles, a Tulsa doctor, started the new year mourning the death of his father, an Army veteran taken by coronavirus complications on January 1.
The very next day, Dr. Galles sent an urgent letter to Governor Kevin Stitt begging for more to be done in the state’s COVID response.
“It really hit home when it was my own family member and I couldn’t be with him in his final minute,” Dr. Galles said.
His father contracted the virus in a long-term care facility before he could get the vaccine. The loss fueled Dr. Galles to write to the governor and ask for more leadership and investment in Oklahoma's public health infrastructure.
When asked what he would have liked to see from leadership in 2021, Dr. Galles responded with, “I think going beyond personal responsibility because what we’re seeing right now is the fact this virus doesn’t care about personal responsibility.”
Dr. Galles has not received a response from the governor or his office about his letter. However, 2 Works for You did.
The governor’s chief of communications said they were made aware of the letter Monday and that hundreds of long-term care facilities have already been immunized through the state’s health department and the federal program with CVS and Walgreens.
The response closes with a statement about Oklahoma's infrastructure being robust and well positioned to continue distributing vaccines. The biggest need is more supply from the government.
"Our office receives hundreds of letters and phone calls each week, and we’ve only been made aware of his letter through the media. Staff and residents at hundreds of long term care facilities have already been immunized through OSDH and the federal program with CVS and Walgreens. OSDH also worked through the weekend to vaccinate our veterans, as noted here. As of this afternoon, Oklahoma ranks in the Top Ten highest states for vaccinations performed per capita and we are distributing our vaccine allotment so effectively that the federal government has reallocated us additional vaccine from other states. However, there does seem to be a bottleneck in Tulsa County, where our data shows just 40% of Tulsa Health Department’s allotment has been administered compared to 68% by the Oklahoma City County Health Department. Additionally, more than 1,300 Oklahoma health care providers have already been approved as vaccination providers and more are continuing to be approved each day. Our infrastructure is robust and well positioned to continue distributing vaccines to Oklahomans regardless where they live. Our biggest need is more supply to become available from the federal government."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma is tenth in the top 10 highest states for vaccinations administered per capita. This while the COVID death toll still rises in Oklahoma. Dr. Galles’ father is one of 2,775 deaths.
“Every day we go without vaccinating some of our most vulnerable populations, people are dying as a result of it,” Dr. Galles said. He hopes everyone accepts the responsibility in getting vaccinated as soon they can.
CVS and Walgreens began vaccinating people at long-term care facilities in Oklahoma December 21. Since then, a CVS representative said they have stopped by 60 facilities, which account for about 3,000 people vaccinated. CVS is on track to finish vaccinating Oklahoma long-term care facilities in March.
A Walgreens rep said they are on track to get first doses done by January 25.
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