Gov. Kate Brown also accelerated COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for people with underlying health conditions, certain workers
Every Oregonian 16 and older could receive at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the first week of June, state officials said Friday after an unexpectedly optimistic news conference, as Gov. Kate Brown announced accelerated eligibility timelines for certain workers and people with underlying health conditions.
Universal vaccine eligibility is now set to open May 1, prompting Brown to give high-risk groups a first crack at securing appointments before the floodgates open.
Counties that have largely completed vaccinating seniors may inoculate certain frontline workers and people ages 45 to 64 with underlying conditions beginning Monday, a week ahead of schedule. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers already at work in fields or industries across Oregon are also eligible to be vaccinated Monday.
Oregonians ages 16 to 44 with underlying health conditions will be eligible April 19, nearly two weeks earlier than planned. Grocery employees and other frontline workers are eligible the same day.
The changes come in response to President Bidens directive to open vaccination eligibility nationwide by May 1. Oregon hadnt planned to offer widespread eligibility until July 1, and state officials initially wouldnt commit to Bidens timeline until they saw more doses arrive.
But Oregon agreed to the overarching deadline this week under orders from the federal government, prompting the accelerated timelines for at-risk groups Brown had already pledged to prioritize.
Brown said the shifting timelines wont mean all Oregonians will be guaranteed an appointment or shot in the arm by May 1. But she said the state projects it should have enough supply for all people who want a vaccine before summer.
Thats a significant forecast, especially considering state officials reluctance just a week ago to commit to revised eligibility dates.
We expect to have enough doses for every Oregonian who wants a vaccine to have the opportunity for at least a first dose by the end of May, Brown said during the news conference. That certainly makes me smile and I hope it does you too.
The futures looking brighter every single day, she added.
Despite the optimism, Oregon officials still doesnt know definitively whether they will receive the necessary vaccines in coming weeks. Oregon has nearly 3.5 million people aged 16 and older, and fewer than 1 million have received at least one dose.
But Brown and state officials announced the target to get all willing Oregonians vaccinated, assuming those doses will in fact arrive.
Although Brown and others said that could happen by the end of May, the Oregon Health Authority later acknowledged the doses would be administered into the first week of June. That assumes 33,000 first doses a day for 77 days a threshold Oregon is currently nowhere near hitting.
Patrick Allen, director of the health authority, told The Oregonian/OregonLive those targets also assume a large number of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which require only one dose to become fully inoculated.
Allen and Brown were clear-eyed about the obstacles that remain, including vaccine supply and the expected logjam of millions of Oregonians who will want the vaccine come May 1.
Allen said the bottlenecks should generally be smaller than those experienced by seniors, many of whom struggled to quickly secure appointments this winter. Thats largely because the state will expect so much additional vaccine this spring.
Brown thanked frontline workers like grocery store employees and transit staffers for being front and center throughout the pandemic. Allen said the state projects by May 1 it will have received enough vaccine to vaccinate 80 or 90% of those workers.
Union leaders reacted to that news positively after hammering the state for weeks for not prioritizing those workers.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555, which represents 28,000 grocery store workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington, issued a statement calling Browns plan a huge step forward and pledging to work closely with the state to create a streamlined process to vaccinate its workforce.
Grocery workers have proven they are essential to their communities in a time of crisis, Dan Clay, the labor groups president, said in a statement. Its only right that they receive vaccinations before those who can work from home.
Meanwhile, Allen said the state is continuing to make progress vaccinating seniors.
About 58% of all seniors 65 and older statewide have received at least one dose, he said, with the percentage for those 80 and above higher — 65%.
Allen said two-thirds of all Multnomah county seniors are vaccinated, and he estimated Oregon is on a trajectory to have 7 out of every 10 seniors statewide vaccinated by the end of this month.
Counties wont have to meet a certain threshold of senior vaccinations to begin vaccinating the next eligible group they just have to inform the state they are ready to move on.
Allen couldnt immediately provide a list of counties that have already taken those steps, but he said Marion County is one such jurisdiction. State officials later said the list included only Deschutes, Lincoln, Polk, Umatilla and Union counties. Officials in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties said they would continue to focus on seniors and not attempt to move forward with new groups Monday.
But the overarching takeaway from Fridays announcement is that a year after the pandemic began, Oregon may now be approaching what could resemble a finish line of sorts. A return to more of a normal life is possible, Allen said, if people act to get vaccinated.
He also noted that it didnt seem feasible not too long ago that vaccines would roll out this quickly, with projections largely focusing on late fall for the state reaching community immunity.
I want to take a moment, Allen said, and remember what a remarkable event this is.
Heres the timeline:
Oregon Vaccine Prioritization Timeline
· Counties that attest to largely completing the vaccination of residents 65 and older may begin vaccinating the next eligible groups.
· Vaccinations may also begin for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in counties where they are currently already working.
March 29 Phase 1B, Group 6
· All adults 45-64 with underlying health conditions,
· Migrant and seasonal farm workers,
· Seafood and agricultural workers,
· Food processing workers,
· People living in low-income senior housing, senior congregate and independent living,
· Individuals experiencing homelessness,
· People currently displaced by wildfires,
· Wildland firefighters, and
· Pregnant people 16 and older.
April 19 Phase 1B, Group 7
· Frontline workers as defined by the CDC,
· Multigenerational household members, and
· Adults 16-44 with underlying health conditions.
· All Oregonians, 16 and older
— Andrew Theen; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-294-4026; @andrewtheen