Oregon officials grappled with prioritization as doses arrived

Coronavirus

State grappling with federal vaccine stockpile shortage

Oregon National Guard Spc. Toby SeWell assigned to the Oregon Army National Guard Medical Command, administers the COVID-19 vaccination to a Salem resident at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, Ore., Jan. 13, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Major Heather Bashor, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As Oregon Gov. Kate Brown grapples with the news that the state won’t be receiving increased shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal stockpile, as previously expected, Oregon still has yet to administer over 175,000 doses it has in circulation, according to the latest coronavirus update issued by Oregon Health Authority Thursday.

However, documents obtained by KOIN 6 News through a records request indicate Oregon officials were still determining how vaccine rollout would be prioritized as doses were first arriving in the state in December.

In response to a public records request to the Office of the Governor for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan that was in place on Dec. 14, 2020, the day Oregon got its first shipment of vaccines, KOIN 6 News received an email record dated Dec. 13 regarding OHA’s COVID Vaccine Phase 1a distribution proposal from The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The committee gave a number of recommendations on who should receive the vaccine during Phase 1a. The communication seemed to indicate the state had not yet defined who would be included in Phase 1a up until that point:

“The need for Oregon to define who is included in Phase 1a is urgent: our partners and the
public are anxious for further information on initial vaccine distribution plans, and we need to
begin planning for the logistical details for distributing Phase 1a vaccines as soon as possible,” the email said. It also stated that future phases after 1a will also be informed by the advice of Oregon’s “soon-to-be established COVID Vaccine Advisory Committee.”

A week later, on Dec. 21, KOIN 6 News learned from an OHA spokesperson that the state had not yet defined who would fall under “essential workers” under the distribution plan.

“Has OHA defined who falls under essential worker?” KOIN 6’s Elise Haas asked OHA’s Lead Communications Officer Jonathan Modie, who gave this response:

“We have not yet defined who would fall under ‘essential workers,’ but we know that population includes the worker groups you mentioned, plus transportation employees, utility workers and others.”

In addition, according to a document dated Dec. 4, entitled Oregon COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Update by OHA, it said prioritization guidelines were still under development.

KOIN 6 News is working to learn more about the state’s vaccine rollout plan. After reaching out to Gov. Brown and OHA, we expect more updates after Brown’s 2 p.m. press conference Friday about the status of vaccines in Oregon.

Earlier this week, Brown announced she was expanding those eligible for vaccination against COVID-19 to include those who were 65 years or older, along with educators, child care providers and school staff based on the projected number of vaccinations from the federal government.

On Friday, The Washington Post was the first to report the federal vaccine reserve had already been exhausted when the Trump administration announced it would release it.

KOIN 6’s Dan Tilkin and Elise Haas contributed to this report.

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