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COVID-19 Vaccinations Could Open To All Oregon Adults By Summer, Health Officials Say

Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Oregon expects its vaccine supply to increase sharply in the coming months — enough to open vaccination appointments to all adults by July 1. Oregon could open vaccine appointments to all adults by mid-summer, health officials will announce Friday.

The Oregon Health Authority expects a sharp uptick in the state’s vaccine supply starting next week based on communications with suppliers and the federal government. If Oregon receives as many vaccines as advertised, the state will have enough first doses for 3.5 million people by the end of May.

Oregon will lay out its vaccination eligibility timeline as follows:

  • No later than March 29, 2021: adults between ages 45 and 64 with underlying health conditions, migrant farm workers, seafood and agricultural workers, food processors, people in low-income and congregate senior housing, people experiencing homelessness, people displaced by wildfires and wildland firefighters.
  • No later than May 1, 2021: adults between 16 and 44 with underlying health conditions, people in multigenerational housing, other frontline workers as defined by the CDC. Frontline workers include grocery and food service workers, U.S. Postal Service employees, transit workers, local and state government workers and journalists.
  • No later than June 1, 2021: all adults between 45 and 64.
  • No later than July 1, 2021: all Oregonians 16 and older.

Oregon Health Authority Chief Financial Officer David Baden said Oregon should soon be receiving more than 200,000 doses a week. The state would reach a point at which vaccine supply will exceed demand shortly thereafter.
“We will be looking for people to vaccinate more than people are looking for vaccine,” Baden said.

The health authority’s projections assume that manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson all hit their production timelines and that expected doses are delivered on time, which hasn’t always been the case.

It was unclear early Friday how many of Oregon’s projected vaccine doses would come from each provider. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have efficacy rates around 95%, but require two doses and ultra-cold storage. The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a lower efficacy rate, but is also easier to store.

Increased supply also does not immediately equal shots in arms. Administering all those additional vaccine doses will require Oregon clinics and pharmacies to expand their capacity. The Oregon Health Authority estimates the state’s mass-vaccination sites can reasonably administer about 200% more doses than they are currently.

“The biggest limiter is supply,” Baden said. “And as supply goes up, we feel pretty confident that these avenues can increase and that we will be ready when more doses arrive to get them into arms.”

At a pace of 16,000 vaccine doses administered daily, Oregon could reach herd immunity by the end of the calendar year. That’s when COVID-19 won’t spread as easily and certain social restrictions can likely loosen.

That pace would theoretically speed up with more vaccines available and a greater capacity to distribute them.

Oregon Health Authority public health director Rachael Banks said the state’s timeline “really focuses on us being able to target resources to those who have had the greatest COVID burden.”

The health authority last week reported racial disparities in vaccine distribution. People who identify as Latino or Hispanic, for example, accounted for only 5% of total vaccinations, despite making up more than one-quarter of Oregon’s confirmed caseload. White people, on the other hand, had received nearly 75% of vaccinations; they make up less than half of Oregon’s cases.

Oregon has reported more than 154,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of late Thursday. At least 2,206 Oregonians have died with the disease.

Copyright 2021 OPB.

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