Governor Kate Brown still plans to allow teachers and other school staff to be immunized against Covid-19 beginning this month — but will delay eligibility for seniors on the news that the federal government won’t be ramping up vaccine shipments to Oregon in the near future.
Brown’s new plan calls for school employees to be eligible for vaccines starting Jan. 25, two days later than she announced earlier this week. Oregonians age 80 and older will have to wait until Feb. 8, with eligibility for those 75, 70 and 65 and older to follow in phases.
Those in older demographics with underlying conditions have been shown to be most vulnerable to death and other serious complications from the coronavirus.
The vaccine was supposed to be made available to all Oregonians 65 and older starting Jan. 23, but state officials said this was dependent on the release of federal reserves that they learned late Thursday would not be coming after all.
In Brown’s words: “Yesterday, we received the disturbing news that this federal reserve of vaccines does not actually exist.”
Brown placed the blame squarely at the feet of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other Trump administration officials, calling their actions “deception on a national scale.”
“Let me assure you that Oregon’s priorities, and my priorities, have not changed,” Brown said at a press conference Friday. “I remain committed to vaccinating our seniors quickly. But this latest news will, unfortunately, cause a two-week delay in beginning vaccinations for seniors.”
The effort that has already been underway with health care, long-term care and vulnerable populations will not change, Brown said.
“Across the state, we continue to vaccinate Oregon’s front-line health-care workers, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers, long-term care residents and staff and more,” she said.
Though she acknowledged Oregon seniors have experienced the highest mortality rates related to Covid-19, she justified placing teachers ahead of them as a way to help guarantee a quicker path to safely reopening schools.
“Because one of my main priorities is getting our kids back to in-person instruction and protecting our educational staff to help achieve this goal, starting the week of Jan. 25, we will begin vaccinations of our educators and school staff,” she said. “In some counties, this may even start sooner.”
Last month, Brown and the Oregon Department of Education announced plans to ease restrictions and offer additional resources to help more districts resume in-person learning by Feb. 15.
But in many districts — including Canby — some teachers have expressed reluctance to return to the classroom until the vaccine is available to them and their most vulnerable colleagues.
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