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Oregon allows Jefferson County to prioritize frontline workers five days ahead of the state vaccination timeline

PAT KRUIS/MADRAS PIONEER - Public Health workers Chris Sanders (facing camera) and Johnathan Courtney livestream on Facebook urging newly eligible frontline workers to get their vaccines. The vaccine clinic at First Baptist Church of Madras runs until 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 31.

"It's a big day for Jefferson County," says Public Health Director Michael Baker. "We're now allowed to do what we've needed to do."

Jefferson County Commissioners have written three letters to Gov. Kate Brown, asking for consideration to the county's unique COVID situation. This is the first time the governor responded. "Pursuant to your previous request to move to Group 7," wrote the Governor's Regional Solutions Director Leah Horner, "please now find that request acknowledged that effective immediately Jefferson County will be moving forward with vaccinations for Group 7." This gives frontline workers in the county a five-day jump on the state timeline.

"We're calling all the people on our waiting list," says Baker.

Eligibility for frontline workers throws the gates open to a large part of the Jefferson County population. It includes anyone who interacts with the public in their job: grocery and retail, postal service, manufacturing, food service, utility, news media, banking, legal, and government. The Oregon Health Authority Website offers a detailed list.

This week, eligibility also opened up to people who work on farms, in food processing, homeless people, and adults age 45-64 with underlying health conditions.

"If everyone we reach out to comes today, we'll be tapped out by 5," says Baker.

Public Health is holding a mass vaccination clinic today, March 31, at the First Baptist Church of Madras at 85 NE A St. The clinic began at 9 a.m. and runs to 4 p.m.

If nurses have doses remaining at the end of the day, they'll vaccinate anyone age 18 or older, regardless of eligibility, rather than throw the serum away.

Baker says the agency will not let a drop of vaccine go to waste.

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