The first of millions of expected vaccine doses needed to extinguish the COVID-19 virus arrived in Oregon Monday, starting a process that could last into fall 2021.
The Oregon Health Authority issued a statement that the first doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer arrived in the state at 7 a.m. Monday. Four facilities in or near Portland, along with a medical center in Ontario in Malheur County, will each receive 975-dose packages by Tuesday.
Oregon is slated to receive 35,100 doses this week. The remaining 30,225 Pfizer doses will go to unspecified hospitals later this week. Another 10,725 doses will go to unspecified skilled nursing facilities for vaccinations beginning next week.
"Today, I can tell you that help is here," Gov. Kate Brown said.
The vaccine's initial arrival comes as the state, like most of the nation, has seen a steep rise in COVID-19 cases since September.
Through reports Sunday, there have been 93,853 positive cases of COVID-19 in Oregon and 1,155 deaths. Nationwide, there have been over 16.3 million cases and 300,267 deaths.
While a sign of hope, getting the vaccine to most of the more than 2.6 million estimated adults in the state is still a distant goal.
"The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but we will be in this tunnel for several months," said Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen.
Allen urged Oregonians to wear masks, physically distance, avoid gatherings, and staying home if sick.
The initial doses will go to what health officials around the country have said are the most important initial targets.
"Starting with the frontline health care workers who have been our first line of defense against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and the long-term care facility residents who are among the most vulnerable, each day," Brown said.
For the facility residents and staff, the pharmacy companies CVS, Walgreens and Consonus Healthcare will offer on-site, no-cost COVID-19 vaccines to more than 680 long-term care facilities in Oregon.
The next group to receive vaccines will be "essential workers," followed by people with underlying health conditions, and those older than 65 are next in line as they are identified by Health Authority's Vaccine Advisory Committee.
Receiving the initial doses Monday were Legacy Health Holladay Park, Portland and Legacy Health Meridian Park in Tualatin, just south of Portland. On Tuesday, doses will go to Oregon Health & Science University and Kaiser Permanente Airport Way Center, both in Portland.
St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario will receive the first doses outside the Portland Metro area.
Most medical facilities that registered to be vaccine provider sites are slated to receive the Pfizer vaccine within two weeks. Oregon is scheduled to receive additional doses on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.
Because the vaccine requires two shots given about 19 days apart, the initial doses will all be used as the first shot, with the follow-up doses later in the month being used primarily for second shots.
A similar vaccine made by Moderna could arrive beginning Dec. 22. It still requires final emergency use authorization by the FDA.
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