More Oklahomans are reaching fully vaccinated status in ZIP codes that have been lagging most of the summer, according to the latest biweekly vaccination data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The statewide COVID-19 vaccination rate was 46.6% this week, compared to 54.7% nationally, the health department said in its weekly epidemiology report. But pockets of the state, including some ZIP codes in the southeastern part and near the Interstate 44 corridor, moved closer to the state average, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of the vaccination data.  

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The latest data shows 138 ZIP codes had vaccination rates higher than 40%. That compared to 111 ZIP codes in that category two weeks ago, the analysis found. (The state’s vaccination tracking system doesn’t include doses administered by tribes or federal entities.)

The pace of vaccinations has leveled off after rising in the second half of the summer as cases, hospitalizations and deaths rose amid the more infectious delta variant of the coronavirus. More than 53,000 doses were given last week, compared to 59,000 in the first week of September. The weekly rate had been as high as 96,000 in mid-August, the health department said.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma reached another grim milestone on Thursday with the COVID-19 death toll surpassing 10,000 people. That’s equivalent to one out of every 400 Oklahomans. The great majority of the deaths have been among residents older than 65.

Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye noted the milestone and said vaccinations are still the most safe and effective tool available to lessen COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations. About 90% of hospital admissions for the virus in the past 30 days have been unvaccinated patients.

“We have the tools in our hands right now to prevent further loss of life,” Frye said in a news release. “As more transmissible variants, such as the delta variant, emerge, we urge Oklahomans to remain vigilant about protecting themselves from this deadly virus. Safe and effective vaccines are readily available to help prevent instances of severe illness and death.”

Hospitalizations remained high at 1,200 but have come down from a recent peak of 1,600 patients per day a month ago. Still, intensive care units remain strained in many hospitals across the state. More than 37% of the occupied ICU beds in the state were COVID-19 patients, according to the latest federal snapshot.

Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017. He covers state agencies and public health. Call or text him at (571) 319-3289 or email pmonies@oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter at @pmonies. 

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