Governor: Oregon to Start Receiving Covid-19 Vaccines Next Week

For Oregonians weary after nearly 10 months of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on families, health care workers, school, recreational opportunities and virtually all aspects of daily life — there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is drawing nearer.

At a press conference Friday morning, Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Health Authority officials shared some good news on the state’s current coronavirus status and the pending distribution of vaccines, while driving home the need for continued precautions for the foreseeable future.

State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger indicated that, while Oregon has continued to see upticks in Covid-19 cases, the anticipated surge from Thanksgiving gatherings has not materialized.

Still, Oregon has continued to mark record daily and weekly caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths — including 36 on Wednesday — from the virus.

Governor Brown announced last week that the first shipment of Covid-19 shots are anticipated for delivery to Oregon on Dec. 15 — to be followed by thousands more doses over the next several weeks.

Oregon is a national leader in the rapid statewide distribution of vaccines against diseases such as influenza, measles, mumps and rubella, Brown said.

“We have a proven, efficient and reliable system for distributing vaccines through a broad network of health care providers, health systems, local public health programs, tribes and community non-profits,” she noted.

The state expects to receive 147,000 doses by the end of December, and the current vaccine requires two doses to be effective. According to Brown, the state would need to perform 10,000 vaccinations per day once the doses arrive in order to use all of them by the end of the year.

Health care workers, along with staff and residents of long-term care facilities, will be prioritized to receive the vaccine. State officials estimate that there are 330,000 health care workers in Oregon.

After distributing vaccines for inpatient care, outpatient facilities — including behavioral health clinics — will be among the next wave. However, officials have not said how many vaccine doses will be delivered to Oregon beyond the first 147,000 — or when.

Brown also said Friday that state officials are fighting an uphill battle against distrust of the vaccine, citing a September survey where only 4 in 10 of the Oregonians surveyed said that they would “certainly” get vaccinated.

In order to reach “community immunity,” an estimated three-fourths of Oregonians would need to be vaccinated.

The Pfizer vaccine also poses a unique supply-chain challenge, requiring ultra-cold storage (at around -94° F) to be effective.

In the meantime, officials urge Oregonians to continue to follow the standard health precautions of wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding large gatherings and frequent hand washing.

“Until we can achieve community levels of immunity, we all must stay the course and continue to practice the safety measures we know can make an impact and stop the spread of this virus,” Brown said.

“I am so grateful to the majority of Oregonians who are following the recommendations of our public health experts by physically distancing, wearing a mask and limiting gatherings.”

Longtime Covid-19 Patient Shares Story

Friday’s briefing, which was presented for the first time via Zoom, included the story of a woman who contracted Covid-19 in March — and has continued to experience life-altering symptoms nearly 10 months after she first fell sick.

Describing herself as a “Covid long-hauler,” Darrah Isaacson, 40, said that she grew up in Gales Creek, went to Southern Oregon University and now lives in southeast Oregon.

Though she and her family were healthy and active before she got the virus, Isaacson said that she can barely walk around the block now.

“I know many people, especially younger people, feel that this virus is not a threat to them, or that the risk of catching it is low,” Isaacson said. “Many think it’s not worth the precautions, the masking, the distancing, the social isolation that some of this has caused.

“Some people think that this is just like the flu. I can tell you from personal and horrible experience that that way of thinking is extremely dangerous. This is an unpredictable and terrifying disease.”

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