Inconsistency in vaccine distribution irks Oregon veterans


Despite confusion, OHA said rollout on schedule

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — KOIN 6 News has received dozens of questions from veterans wondering how vaccination distribution is going at the Veteran Affairs Clinic.

Currently, the Portland and Vancouver VA are working on veterans who are 65+ while the Salem clinics are giving shots to veterans 75 and over. Between staff and veterans, the VA has given 20,000 vaccinations — with more than 100,000 to go.

According to the VA, a recent delay in its vaccine rollout occurred last week when the agency stopped scheduling first shots to ensure it would have enough supply for all of the scheduled second doses. This week, the VA said it will reassess the current supply and anticipated resupply of the vaccine.

A spokesperson told KOIN 6 News the clinics have no way to guess when it can start moving on to different age groups because the vaccine supply is so unpredictable.

“We received 975 doses last week and 975 for this week, which is lower than previous weeks,” the VA said. “Our capacity to give vaccinations far exceeds our supply.”

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

Educators across Oregon have also expressed frustration with the handling of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. While the Oregon Health Authority said it has passed the 70% threshold on vaccinating healthcare workers in Phase 1A, the subsequent phase has yet to begin.

More than 100,000 educators became eligible for their shot on January 25 — roughly half of those doses are ready, according to OHA. A little more than 60,000 doses have been allocated and will be administered by the end of the week. OHA said the current pace is on track to have a critical mass of educators vaccinated by mid-Febuary.

The next group to become eligible are people 80+ beginning February 8.

The Oregon Health Authority said it is aiming to vaccinate 70% of each group before moving on to the next population of lower ages.

In a follow-up email with the OHA, KOIN 6 News asked how many of the 105,000 eligible teachers have been inoculated with their first dose. The agency replied that educators, childcare workers and early learning center staff are on track.

“Counties were using the 61,000 doses we allocated for last week and this week to educators, and we believe we’re on pace to vaccinate a critical mass of educators by the time people 75 years of age and older become eligible the week of Feb. 14,” the email stated. You can see how they further discussed the topic last week at their media availability.

The agency said it’s aiming to vaccinate approximately 70% of each eligible population before moving onto the next group.

“That’s a guidepost, not a hard and fast number,” the agency said. “For Phase 1a at a statewide level, we’re past a 70% threshold for Phase 1a, though we know there’s variation by county.”

The OHA explained that the educator population is a “relatively small bump” in the hoards of people eligible.

“Vaccinating educators now gives Oregon the best chance to open schools before the end of the school year.”

In terms of seniors getting their vaccines, the OHA verified that starting Feb. 8, more than 800,000 older adults will become eligible over a four-week period.

“Without any new doses, we expect to reach a critical mass of seniors by late April/early May.”

Lastly, KOIN 6 News wanted to know the best way for the 80+ group to go about scheduling their shot.

“Right now, most eligible Oregonians will get vaccinated at hospitals, local public health authorities, federally qualified health centers and through mass vaccination events,” the OHA said. “Some Oregonians are receiving vaccinations from federal and state pharmacy partners. Each county is different. Some counties offer online sign-ups and scheduling in partnership with hospitals and health systems, while others have information on the local public health authority website. OHA is working closely with vaccine partners to build tools and pathways that connect more eligible Oregonians to vaccination sites and events.” 

If you are eligible, use the Vaccine Information Tool chatbox online, text ORCOVID to 898211, email or call 211.

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