PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dr. Dean Sidelinger, who has become relatively well known as Oregon’s top epidemiologist during the pandemic of 2020, said we have something to celebrate — and it’s more than just the holidays.

“This may sound self-serving, but I think we need to talk about our success in Oregon because it really relies on everyone. You know, we made it through Thanksgiving without a significant surge after the holidays, as our neighbors to the South and many other neighbors saw,” Sidelinger told KOIN 6 News in a one-on-one interview. “And I think that’s really a testament to Oregonians coming together, all knowing the rules, wearing a mask and keeping their gatherings small. And because of that, you know, we’re going into Christmas in a much better place”

Public health officials are still concerned about hospital capacity which is why he said it’s important we celebrate this success — with members of our own household — because it takes a collective effort.

Sidelinger wants to manage both the coronavirus and everyone’s expectations with the vaccines.

Kaiser received a shipment of the Pfizer COVID vaccine, December 15 2020. (Courtesy)

The vaccine rollout is going slower than health officials would like, he said. Part of the problem is coordinating and communicating with federal, state and local partners, and part of it is the serious challenges of the ultra-cold storages.

At this point, he said, they don’t know how many doses of the vaccines Oregon will get week to week, which makes planning ahead impossible.

“We need to be patient as vaccines come in. I think we’re all very excited. We’ve seen those first shots go into doctors and nurses and folks who keep our hospitals clean and serve our food. And that’s great,” Sidelinger said. “But it is a challenging logistical kind of roll out. And so as that happens, you know, I think people hopefully have patience as they wait for their turn in line. Because I think we’ll all get there. But it won’t be next week and it won’t be next month.”

Oregon state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger at a press conference, September 4, 2020 (KOIN)

As long as there are no production problems he believes the general public will be able to get vaccinated in the spring. As the vaccines are delivered, the state will distribute that directly to local partners. It will then be publicized that it’s available to the healthy sector of the general public.

Sidelinger also reiterated the vaccine will be free of charge — meaning those with health insurance will be completely covered. Those without health insurance will have access to a free vaccine paid for by the federal government.

By following guidelines and making social sacrifices, Sidelinger said Oregon is going to be in a much better position by the time spring rolls around.