PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Governor Kate Brown unveiled who is next in the vaccine eligibility line after seniors during a press conference on Friday.
Brown said more Oregonians will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at the end of March — including some adults aged 45-64. She also announced that all Oregonians over 16 who wish to receive a vaccine will be eligible no later than July 1.
The continuation of Phase 1b will proceed in two waves. With the first wave beginning March 29, the following groups of people will be able to receive the vaccination:
- Adults age 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions as defined by the CDC
- Seasonally-impacted frontline workers, such as migrant seasonal farmworkers, seafood and agricultural workers, and food processing workers
- Currently displaced victims of the September 2020 wildfires
- Wildland firefighters
- People living in low-income and congregate senior housing
- Individuals experiencing houselessness
The second wave, which will start by May 1, includes:
- All other frontline workers as defined by the CDC
- Individuals age 16-45 with underlying health conditions
- Multigenerational household members
All other adults aged 45-64 will be eligible no later than June 1, when Phase 2 begins. All other Oregonians 16 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine no later than July 1.
According to the governor’s office, the schedule is based on the recommendations made by the Vaccine Advisory Committee.
This news comes as hospitalizations decline and vaccinations increase. In her press conference, Brown thanked Oregonians for their efforts to minimize the spread.
“I’ve said it before, but it deserves to be said again — Oregon is a special place, and I am so touched by how strong, resilient and brave you’ve all been through these unprecedented circumstances,” she said. “Thank you.”
She empathized with residents over the devastating year we’ve all been through. However, as our vaccination efforts ramp up, she said there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“Like every state, we’ve had some bumps along the way,” she said. “But overall, we’re getting shots in the arms of Oregonians quickly, safely and equitably.”
She said more than 14% of Oregonians have been vaccinated with their first dose — which is more than half a million people. At least one in four seniors aged 65 and older have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
With the new eligibility timeline, anyone in the state will be able to get the vaccine no later than July 1.
“Come summer, provided supplies from the federal government continue as planned, any Oregonian who wants the vaccine will be eligible to receive it,” Brown said. “While that gives us all a reason to breathe a sigh of relief — it should also serve as a reminder that the finish line is in sight and we cannot let up. New variants of this virus still threaten our communities. While infection rates continue to plummet both here in Oregon and across the country, we’re not out of the woods just yet.”
She went onto remind people to continue to do what they can to stop the spread, including social distancing, wearing masks and keeping indoor gatherings to a minimum.
OHA Director Patrick Allen joined Brown at the press conference to dive more into the numbers.
“As Governor Brown announced, today marks a major turning point in Oregon’s vaccination program and our state’s ongoing fight against the coronavirus,” Dr. Allen said. “We are speeding up our timelines, not backing off. For the first time since the pandemic started, we can provide a timeline that will tell every adult Oregonian a date before which he or she will be eligible to get vaccinated.”
Allen also touched on the fact that many people are expressing frustration over scheduling vaccination appointments.
“As more vaccines become available, we can expand vaccine distribution points to more locations where many people are used to getting vaccinated: Retail pharmacy outlets, outpatient clinics and other sites linked to hospitals and health systems to help loosen bottlenecks,” he explained. “
Allen said he knows scheduling an appointment at the Oregon Convention Center has been tough for many seniors and their families.
“We recognize the demand for doses is overwhelming our partners’ scheduling system. Next week, we’re going to try something new. We’re going to use the registrations from the Get Vaccinated Oregon tool as an invitation system.”
He said this invitation system aims to lessen the burden on individuals so that people don’t feel like they have to win the lottery to get one of the limited vaccine appointments.
KOIN 6 News’ Lisa Balick asked if those 80 and older will be prioritized in this new system, considering less than half of that population has been vaccinated. However, Dr. Allen says they will prioritize all people in the eligible populations.
OHA Public Health Director Rachael Banks followed Dr. Allen to discuss the process of deciding who gets the vaccine next.
“In our priorities, we wanted to stay true to the recommendations of the Vaccine Advisory Committee and remain consistent with recommendations from the CDC,” she said. “This balance ensured that our priorities took into account: Oregon’s commitment to equity, our goal to end health inequities by 2030 and the unique frontline worker roles that are core to our communities, and kept us functioning during the pandemic.”
Officials also looked at who has an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and becoming severely ill, along with what places have seen the most frequent and prolific outbreaks and where can they address the worst disparities this pandemic has exposed.
Thursday, Brown extended Oregon’s State of Emergency for another 60 days, through May 2, 2021.
The declaration is “the legal underpinning for the Governor’s COVID-19 executive orders and the Oregon Health Authority’s health and safety guidance,” a release from her office explained.
The declaration is reviewed every 60 days.
On Wednesday, Brown toured Kalapuya Elementary School in Salem and said she’s absolutely confident schools are safe for everyone — as long as COVID-19 protocols are in place and followed.
In Friday’s press conference, Brown said over 20% of students in the state are participating in in-person instruction. She said she’s currently working with communities, superintendents and educators to get kids back in the classroom — which Dr. Allen says should only get easier as vaccinations ramp up and infection levels continue to drop.
When asked why she wouldn’t sign an executive order to demand schools reopen, Brown said, “It’s my expectation for school districts around the state that meet the metrics, that we begin in-person instruction for elementary students — and I fully expect school districts around the state to move forward and provide in-classroom instruction. We know that our students do better with in-person instruction and we know that students across the state — many of them — are struggling with comprehensive distanced learning.”
Oregon’s governor was among the first in the nation to prioritize vaccines for educators over the elderly in an effort to reopen schools and get students back in school.