President Joe Biden made waves by announcing, in his first primetime address to the nation Thursday night, that the United States would have enough doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to immunize all adults by May 1.
But Governor Kate Brown, who announced just two weeks ago that her state would not reach that threshold of vaccine supply until July 1 — a full two months behind the nation’s schedule — was unmoved, for now.
“Our plan in Oregon has always been to align our vaccination timelines with available federal supplies,” Brown said in prepared remarks Friday, the day after the president’s speech. “As weekly shipment allocations increase, we will reassess those timelines.
“If the doses are there, I have every intention of utilizing all available state and federal resources to match the president’s timeline for universal eligibility.”
Though increasing supplies of new doses would accelerate distribution, Brown said the state’s prioritization — which places the most vulnerable, aging adults, front-line workers and others — at the front of the line.
Brown said the state is working hard to ramp up the vaccine roll-out.
Still, the gulf between the state’s outlook for vaccine availability and the nation’s rosier picture is vast. In his address, Biden had floated the tantalizing picture of a return to some normalcy, with backyard gatherings and barbecues with friends, by July Fourth.
But, unless Oregon’s timeline is moved up considerably, that would be just four days after vaccine eligibility is expanded to all adults in our state.
“I know we are all hopeful we can safely be reunited with our family and friends for small gatherings by the Fourth of July,” Brown promised. “As governor, I will do everything I can to make that happen.”
Though the occupant of the White House has changed since then, Oregon leaders and state health officials no doubt remain wary of fully taking the federal government at its word when it comes to vaccine supply after an episode in January, when eligibility for vulnerable seniors was rolled back due to supplies being less than advertised.
Brown called the Trump administration’s promise to states to empty a supposed stockpile of Covid-19 vaccines — a reserve which, as it turned out, had already been exhausted — “deception on a national scale.”
At a press conference Friday, the governor cited the state’s progress in returning more than 170,000 students to some in-person learning.
Oregon is also investing $250 million to expand summer learning and child care opportunities — and is expecting “significant funding” from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was also signed into federal law this week, which will go toward struggling families, small businesses, homeowners, renters, the unemployed and local governments.
“But we are most definitely not out of the woods just yet,” Brown noted. “With the discovery of new Covid-19 mutations, including one believed to have occurred spontaneously here in Oregon, it is clear that this virus is capable of evolving. It’s alarming, and an important reminder that … we must still keep our guard up.
“Let’s use this moment to keep making smart choices. Keep wearing your mask. Continue to physical distance. No large gatherings just yet. And get the vaccine — any one of the three — when it’s made available to you.”
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