The first shipments of Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Oregon early Monday, marking what many hope and believe to be the beginning of the end for the deadly pandemic that has taxed Americans in myriad and unprecedented ways over the past 10 months.
Shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine began shipping to all 50 states and U.S. territories mere hours after a four-state scientific review panel that includes Oregon declared it “safe and efficacious.”
Nearly 2,000 doses arrived at about 7 a.m. at two Portland-area hospitals, part of a first wave that state healt officials say should be enough to inoculate 100,000 Oregonians by month’s end.
Health care workers, along with staff and residents of long-term care facilities, will be first in line to receive the vaccine — a process that is expected to take several months and isn’t expected to begin until Wednesday. State officials estimate there are 330,000 health care workers in Oregon.
In a number of other states — from New York and Ohio to Louisiana and California — nurses and other health care workers received their shots Monday morning and afternoon as a national audience watched.
JUST NOW on @MSNBC: Critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay becomes the first in New York to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/B6A7oIxmQu
Not long after the first doses arrived in her state, Oregon Governor Kate Brown released a video statement welcoming the news.
“In recent weeks, as Covid-19 vaccines reached the final stages of approval, I have said time and again that hope is on the way,” the governor said. “Today, I can tell you that help is here.”
Starting with front-line health care workers, “who have been our first line of defense against Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic,” and the long-term care facility residents who are among the most vulnerable, more and more Oregonians will be vaccinated against the coronvirus each day, Brown said.
“Starting this week, and each week following — as vaccines become more widely available — we will begin gaining ground again in our fight against this disease,” she said.
She also promised to work to ensure equitability for minority populations that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including those from Black, Indigenous, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities.
Despite the growing glimmer of hope, Brown was quick to say the worst is not yet over.
“We are in the middle of some of the hardest days of this pandemic,” she said. “Our hospitals are stretched to capacity, and too many families are losing loved ones just as we enter the holiday season.”
Later Monday, amid news of the state reporting nearly 1,200 new cases of the coronavirus and six related deaths, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen expressed similar sentiments, calling for Oregonians to stay the course that has helped the state record among the lowest per capita rates of Covid-19.
“It is a hard truth that we can’t vaccinate everyone at once and bring the pandemic to a sudden close,” Allen said. “Sadly, that means Oregon will see more COVID-19 infections and more deaths. But we together control how many more that will be. We’ve already been doing that over the past 10 months.”
Even as the vaccine is gradually proliferated throughout the population, state officials urge Oregonians to continue to follow the now-standard public health guidance: wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings and maintain your distance from those outside your household.
“Doing that, we can make sure that the number of new infections and deaths is as small as possible until we’re able to fully vaccinate the wider population and eradicate Covid-19,” Allen said.
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