It has been just over a week since the new Covid-19 vaccine began arriving in Oregon, and the state reports that more than 7,200 have received their first dose.
Those numbers include 735 Clackamas County residents, as well as 4,475 front-line health care workers who received the first in a two-dose series last week, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Starting Monday, long-term care residents — who are known to be more at risk for serious complications — and staff at those facilities began receiving Covid-19 vaccinations under a statewide rollout plan that prioritizes those disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more likely to suffer life-threatening health consequences if they contract the virus, OHA says, and those risks are elevated for those who live in large group settings.
For these reasons, more than half of Oregon’s initial allotment of immunizations — an estimated 22,425 vaccine doses — has been earmarked for nursing facilities.
The state’s plan calls for participating pharmacies — Consonus Healthcare, CVS and Walgreens — to set up on-site vaccination clinics at long-term care facilities as well as smaller congregate care settings.
“We are full of hope that this vaccination program will reduce the suffering and hardship experienced by long-term care residents, staff and their families,” said Fariborz Pakseresht, director of the Oregon Department of Human Services. “While we are pleased with the speed at which the vaccination program is rolling out, it will take some time to reach all facilities.”
Officials have also set up an online dashboard where the public can track the rollout of the state’s immunization program, statewide and within counties.
“Right now, there is not enough vaccine to immunize everyone in the United States against Covid-19,” OHA said in a press release this week. “Currently, the only people prioritized to receive the vaccine are health care workers and people who live or work in long-term care facilities, such as skilled nursing facilities.”
Governor Kate Brown held a press conference Tuesday to provide the latest on the vaccine roll-out and encourage Oregonians to continue to do their part to protect themselves and others from the virus.
“Thanks to the decisions the majority of Oregonians continue to make, we are slowing the spread of Covid-19,” Governor Brown said. “And while our case counts are still up, we are avoiding many worst-case scenarios.”
As she did before the Thanksgiving holiday last month, Brown urged residents to refrain from travel and large gatherings for Christmas and New Year’s.
Four-State Scientific Review Panel OK Moderna Vaccine
In other news, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup this week completed its review of a second Covid-19 vaccine that has received emergency approval from federal authorities.
The immunization — which was developed by Moderna and, unlike Pfizer’s, does not require ultra-cold storage — is safe and effective, the scientific review panel said.
The group provided its confirmation to the governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington Sunday. Shipments were expected early this week.
“After thorough scientific review, here is what the doctors and health experts have told us: the Moderna vaccine is safe,” Brown said in a statement. “It is effective. And, it gives us the ability to reach communities across rural Oregon and the West that don’t have easy access to cold storage.”
Oregon joined the medical review panel to vet the work of federal regulators responsible for approving the new coronavirus vaccines, given the exceptionally fast timeline in which they were developed and the uphill battle against distrust of the vaccine that state officials have already acknowledged they are facing.
In a previous press conference, Governor Brown cited a September survey where only 4 in 10 of the Oregonians surveyed said that they would “certainly” get vaccinated. At least 70% of Oregonians must receive the vaccine to reach herd immunity, health officials estimate, a process that’s expected to take months.
The group will continue to evaluate other Covid-19 vaccines as they go through the federal process.
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