Dr. Vines on variants, vaccines and cautious optimism


Reason to believe life could feel more normal by fall or end of 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With the state’s vaccine supply expected to increase and the dropping number of cases around the region, things are looking up — but the coronavirus variant from Oregon is on researchers’ radar and doctors are working to figure out what that means locally.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, the lead health officer for the Tri-County Portland metro region, is cautiously optimistic. People, though, need to be aware these variants are more contagious.

They spread easier because they’re stickier, able to latch onto the cells in your nose and throat more effectively. It’s normal for viruses to mutate, and they mutate when they’re able to grow and get passed from person-to-person. Vines said the main way to stop the virus from mutating is to get a handle on them through immunity.

A variant of COVID-19 that spreads more easily was detected in Oregon for the first time Friday. January 16, 2021 (KOIN).

“So I think (the way) people are viewing the variants of concern is sort of a race between how soon they may take hold versus how quickly we can get people vaccinated and protected from the most severe forms of the disease,” Vines told KOIN 6 News. “So time will tell, but that’s why you hear us continuing to urge you to continue masking, distancing and limiting social interactions, because those are all preventative things that are going to buy us time to vaccinate and hopefully head off these more contagious versions of the virus.”

The evidence suggests the available vaccines will continue to work for the time being. The back-up plan would be an updated set of vaccines, similar to a yearly flu shot, Vines said.

If people keep up their end of the bargain by limiting social interactions and the state keeps up its vaccination rates — and if no new variants of the coronavirus takes hold — Vines said there’s reason to believe that life could feel more normal by fall or the end of 2021.

Vaccine Supply vs. Vaccine Shots

Vines admits Oregon and the Tri-County area have a lot of work to do to rev up the vaccine infrastructure in order to meet the supply that appears to be coming our way.

“We have a big lift in terms of standing up vaccine infrastructure. And I fully acknowledged that it has been bumpy and confusing to many people, especially our seniors who were among the first eligible,” she said. “So we have our work cut out for us, to get that stood up and available to people in a way that is simple and accessible and meets their needs.”

The mass vaccination clinics have been amazing in regards to sheer volume, she said, but people haven’t always had the best experiences with the crowds.

Vines said the general consensus among public health officials is the need to develop a variety: small, medium and large vaccination sites. Small sites, she said, are better for high-risk communities and she said more medium-sized sites are on the horizon.

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