PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With just a few days left to submit a recommendation on who should get the COVID-19 vaccine next, the Oregon Health Authority’s Vaccine Advisory Committee has made a decision.
The group met again on Thursday and, after much discussion, decided there are several groups that should get the vaccine before it’s offered to the general public. Most of the discussion centered on how to address health inequities and how structural racism has created systems and conditions that put Black, indigenous, people of color and tribal communities at a higher risk for adverse health outcomes.
The committee’s recommendation includes adults aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions, front-line workers who have been working through the pandemic and cannot work from home, adults and youth in custody who are 16 and older, and people living in low-income and congregate senior housing.
Following those groups, the committee recommends people who live in multi-generational households, followed by the general public.
The initial group includes approximately 1 million people and vaccine supply is limited.
Public Health Director Rachael Banks said the state will essentially have to narrow down the committee’s recommendation.
“I also want to be transparent in saying there will be decisions made if we continue to have 50,000 or 30,000 new first doses a week and an eligibility population that’s very, very wide,” said Banks. “Ultimately, we don’t want to frustrate communities by having a lot of people who ultimately think, you know, I’m eligible right now and know that there’s not enough spots.”
The committee originally wanted BIPOC communities to be vaccinated first but Banks said vaccines can’t be rolled out that way.
“We’re not able to prioritize services or make decisions based on services solely on somebody’s race or ethnicity,” she said.
OHA said the next step is to figure out how to implement the committee’s recommendation and what will look like. But with the current vaccine supply, vaccinating all of the recommended groups at the same time won’t be possible. Oregon doesn’t have enough doses to vaccinate the current groups who are eligible.