Oregon plans to open vaccines for all by July

Gov. Kate Brown announced Oregonians who are 16 and older will be eligble no later than July 1.

By Sara Cline /Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — All Oregonians who are 16 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations no later than July 1, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday.

The governor presented her new vaccine eligibility timeline for the state during a news conference Friday — outlining when people with underlying health conditions, people in low-income housing, homeless people, essential workers and the general public will receive shots.

“Yes, you are hearing me correctly,” Gov. Brown said. “Come summer — provided supplies from the federal government continue as planned — any Oregonian who wants the vaccine will be eligible to receive it.”

The next round of vaccine distribution in Oregon will occur in waves.

People who are eligible in the first wave, which begins March 29, are residents who are 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions, seasonally-impacted frontline workers — such as migrant seasonal farm workers, seafood and agricultural workers, and food processing workers — displaced victims of the September 2020 wildfires, wildland firefighters, people living in low-income and congregate senior housing and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Rachael Banks, the director of the health authority’s public health division, said Oregon is using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of underlying health conditions — cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Down Syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised state, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes.

The second wave, which begins May 1, will include all other frontline workers as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are 16 to 45 with underlying health conditions and multigenerational household members.

Frontline workers include grocery store employees, restaurant works, members of the media and public transit workers.

In addition, no later than June all adults 45 or older will be eligible.

Currently people who are eligible for vaccine are Oregonians in the Phase 1a group — which includes healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities — and educators, seniors 70 and older and adults in custody.

Beginning Monday, people who are 65 or older will also be eligible for vaccine.

“One year (into the pandemic), with our vaccine efforts continuing to ramp up, we truly see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Brown said. “Like every state, we’ve had some bumps along the way. But overall, we’re getting shots into the arms of Oregonians quickly, safely and equitably.”

The updated prioritizations schedule was based on recommendations from the Vaccine Advisory Committee.

At one point the committee had discussed whether to prioritize racial minorities, but decided against it as they said people of color likely fell into the other prioritized groups and due to concerns about legal issues if race was the focus.

However, the committee has stated one of their goals is to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to minority communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Last week health officials reported significant disparities.

Based on data from the health authority, white people represent 75% of Oregonians. While they only comprise about 48% of coronavirus cases, they account for 74% of vaccinations.

As of Friday, 14% of Oregon’s population have received at least the first dose of vaccine. Officials have said they also expect increased shipments of the vaccine to Oregon. This week the state received 110,000 vaccine doses, but during the next couple of months health officials say that number could nearly double.

“The federal government and vaccine manufacturers have committed to sending game-changing volumes of vaccines to states,” said Pat Allen, the director of the health authority. “We intend to ramp up vaccine distribution in Oregon to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”

Currently, the two vaccines that Oregon has is the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — both have efficacy rates around 95%, require two doses and needs ultra-cold storage.

But, Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is also on the verge of being authorized, as the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel holds an all-day meeting on Friday.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only one shot and easier to store, but has a lower efficacy rate.

Sara Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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