COVID vaccine could be available for everyone by July 1
Every adult in Oregon will be offered a vaccination against COVID-19 by July 1, with the two-shot vaccines reaching all adults who want it by August, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday, Feb. 26.
"Come summer, any Oregonian who wants the vaccine can receive it," Brown announced at a virtual press conference.
It was a surprisingly optimistic forecast after recent estimates that the vaccination of the entire state would stretch into autumn or even early 2022. Oregon has had one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation, with 154,878 infections and 2,206 deaths through Friday. Nationwide, there have been just under 28.5 million infections and 510,089 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The shorter timeline announced Friday is based on reports from the Biden Administration that Pfizer and Moderna, the maker of the two available vaccines, will hit their production targets, which would increase the number of doses coming to states. A third vaccine, being developed by Johnson & Johnson, which requires just one inoculation, though initial reports show its effectiveness is somewhat less than the Pfizer and Moderna doses.
Logistical bottlenecks are being cleared and Biden is bringing in more help for states. In Oregon, Phase 1 vaccine eligibility, which covers about 1.36 million people, reaches its last eligibility milestone Monday, when those age 65 to 69 can make appointments. The state then plans to used most of March to catch up with some of the Phase 1 backlog.
Phase 2 eligibility begins March 29, when residents 45 to 64 with medical conditions that the Centers for Disease Control defines as making them more likely to become seriously ill or die if infected with COVID-19, can sign-up. Conditions include type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, compromised immune systems, sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes. Pregnancy is on the list, as is obesity that results in a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.
Residents should consult with their doctor and with the full explanation of qualifying conditions on the CDC and Oregon Health Authority websites.
Also eligible on March 29 are some farm and food industry workers, homeless people, residents of low-income or congregate housing, wildland firefighters and those displaced by the 2020 wildfires.
On May 1, those 16-44 with medical conditions on the CDC list can sign up. Also "frontline" workers with jobs dealing with the public, and any adult living in a multi-generational household.
Phase 2 wraps up with anyone over 45 eligible on June 1 and anyone over 16 on July 1.
No vaccine approved for children is available yet, though several are under development.
'Keep our commitments'
The optimistic scenario for the future clashed with the reality of widespread frustration over the gap between eligibility and availability. Brown and Allen forecast "chaos" last month for the system of large vaccination centers and local pharmacies that will handle inoculation of seniors across the state.
The central math problem is too little vaccine for too many arms.
Allen pointed out Oregon is at or above the national average of 15% of the populace having received at least one shot.
But a look at the numbers is daunting and at least for now, disappointing. About 1.36 million people in Oregon are in Phase 1. Each vaccination requires two shots, or 2.72 million shots for the group.
Oregon is not close to reaching that number. Between the vaccine first becoming available at the end of December 2020 and Friday, Oregon reports it has injected 911,648 doses. That would leave 1.8 million shots needed to cover Phase 1 with a month to go until Phase 2 starts.
Oregon has ramped up to about 20,000 shots per day and forecasts expanding the number of places and people who can inoculate those eligible as the vaccine supply increases.
One number that's not known is how many people are refusing the offer to be inoculated. Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said neither state nor federal officials are tracking who is eligible but says no to the vaccine. The higher that number, the more vaccine is actually available for those that want it.
Allen said OHA is still vaccinating Phase 1 groups who want to be inoculated but have not yet been able to get to a vaccine site.
Brown said that pausing this month will allow Oregon to catch up on the backlog. "We want to keep our commitment to our seniors," Brown said.
Allen said Phase 2 will begin May 29 regardless of how many Phase 1 people get inoculated this month.
Deaths during delays
Brown has been sharply criticized for her decision last month to depart from CDC guidelines recommending the next priority go to vaccinating those over 65. In Oregon, 90% of COVID-19 deaths have been age 60 or older.
The governor opted to put 153,000 teachers, school staff and daycare workers ahead of seniors.
Brown argued the school group was small compared to the nearly 800,000 seniors. To wait would likely wipe out any chance to get schoolchildren back in classrooms in the spring.
Learning in the classroom is overall far better and equitable than "virtual" learning where a laptop or tablet and internet connection can be difficult to obtain for poorer families. Schools also offer hot meals, and check in on children's mental and physical health, while freeing parents to work outside the home.
Critics said even a short delay that led to an avoidable death was wrong, with unofficial estimates putting the possible deaths from the two-week delay at up to 100.
OHA said it would issue updated guidance on the availability of vaccine and the various ways to sign-up and receive a notification when a resident's eligibility group comes up.
Phase 2 eligibility priorities for COVID-19 vaccination:
• Adults age 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions, as defined by the CDC
• Seasonal workers, such as migrant farm workers, seafood and agricultural workers, and food processing workers.
• Currently displaced victims of the September 2020 wildfires
• Wildland firefighters
• People living in low-income and congregate senior housing
• Individuals age 16-45 with underlying health conditions
• All other frontline workers as defined by the CDC
• Multigenerational household members
Adults 45 to 64.
Everyone age 16 and older.
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