Lack of federal vaccine reserve changes eligibility timeline for Oregonians

Salem, OR—Gov. Kate Brown today issued the following statement on new information about the federal reserve of COVID-19 vaccines:

“Last night, I received disturbing news, confirmed to me directly by General Perna of Operation Warp Speed: States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.

“I am demanding answers from the Trump Administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences.

“This is a deception on a national scale. Oregon’s seniors, teachers, and all of us were depending on the promise of Oregon’s share of the federal reserve of vaccines being released to us.”

A copy of a letter that Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen sent to U.S. DHS Secretary Azar about this discrepancy is available here .

Gov. Brown held a press briefing today at 3 p.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19. She said the state is forced to make difficult choices, including pushing back the date that seniors age 65+ become eligible for vaccination. Based on Oregon Health Authority’s updated timeline, eligibility will take place on:

  • Feb. 8 for people age 80+
  • Feb. 15 for people age 75+
  • Feb. 22 for people age 70+
  • March 1 for people age 65+

The plan to vaccinate Oregon’s education personnel – people who work in child care, early learning and k-12 settings – has shifted only slightly. Eligibility for this group begins on Jan. 25. The decision to vaccinate education employees before seniors was based on several factors, including the relatively small size of the education population and the fact that it is an organized group, making it easier to vaccinate quickly and move on to seniors and other groups.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said that while the expected surge of vaccine is not coming, he is generally confident that Operation Warp Speed will continue to provide vaccine in the same capacity that it has thus far. He also said that the state’s current supply includes second doses – or boosters – for people who have already received their first dose.

“We, like Gov. Brown and so many others, are disappointed by today’s news. We will adjust for the new timeline and remain committed to utilizing all of our available resources to vaccinate our most vulnerable citizens as quickly as possible,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

OHA has updated its vaccine information site to include information by county and how to determine who is eligible. Visit https://covidvaccine.oregon.gov

State vaccination goal of 12,000 met at end of last week

Vehicles are lined up along SW 3rd Avenue prior to the start of Thursday’s drive-up vaccine clinic, held inside the parking garage at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Ontario.

Based on updated totals, Oregon Health Authority announced that vaccination sites across the state met Gov. Kate Brown’s goal of ensuring 12,000 vaccinations a day at the end of last week. Vaccine providers in Oregon administered 12,039 total doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines on Jan. 8, 2021. The governor required the benchmark to be met by the end of the two-week period that began Jan. 4.

The Malheur County Health Department has administered roughly 580 vaccines since Jan. 6 and plans to continue to hold vaccine PODs (points of distribution) at least once a week, contingent on vaccine availability.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

“While we hit the Governor’s goal of hitting 12,000 vaccines administered in a day last week,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen, “we want to sustain and expand our daily totals. The state can’t achieve our goal to deliver vaccinations quickly, efficiently and equitably all on our own. I’m grateful for the hard work that staff in hospitals, local health clinics and other sites have put into ramping up vaccinations for Oregonians. Vaccines are the safest and most effective way we can end this pandemic.”

Through Jan. 22, vaccine availability is limited to people in Phase 1a of the vaccine distribution sequencing. Beginning Jan. 23, Phase 1b opens up to people age 65 and over, child care providers, and early learning and K-12 staff. MCHD will provide details on vaccine distribution plans for seniors and educators as those plans are finalized. Check our monthly events calendar for upcoming vaccine clinics and other public health-related events.

Vaccination of Oregon seniors, educators to begin Jan. 23, pending increased vaccine availability

Following Tuesday’s updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Kate Brown announced that Oregon will be expanding COVID-19 vaccination to include all individuals age 65 and older. However, this change will not happen immediately.

The federal government announced it would be releasing its full reserve of vaccines available to states, rather than holding some doses in storage. Vaccination of Oregon seniors – as well as child care providers and early learning and K-12 educators and staff – is scheduled to start on Jan. 23, when additional vaccine shipments are expected to begin arriving from the federal government.

“If you are an Oregonian who is newly eligible for vaccination, I am asking for your patience,” Gov. Brown said. “Please, do not call your doctor’s office or health care provider with questions about when you can be vaccinated. Today’s news arrived with no advance notice from the federal government. Oregon health care providers are working as fast as humanly possible to shift their vaccine distribution plans to meet this sudden change in national guidance.”

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said plans to expand vaccine clinics are under way. “Our Malheur County team is ready to rise to the challenge to vaccinate as many people as possible, including our most vulnerable population. We are thankful for Governor Brown’s decision to allow counties to move as quickly as possible to reach everyone in our community.

MCHD will provide details on vaccine distribution plans for seniors and educators as those plans are finalized. Check our monthly events calendar for upcoming vaccine clinics and other public health-related events.

Governor announces updates to county risk levels

Salem, OR—Governor Kate Brown today announced updates to county risk levels under the state’s new public health framework to reduce transmission and protect Oregonians from COVID-19. The framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—and assigns health and safety measures for each level.

Effective January 15 through January 28, there will be 26 counties in the Extreme Risk level, two at High Risk, two at Moderate Risk, and six at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.

“With four counties moving back to Extreme Risk, this week we are reminded that health and safety measures continue to be of utmost importance, even when we slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “I want to remind all Oregonians to continue to do their part by abiding by the health and safety guidelines in place. Until vaccines are widely available with high participation rates, the surest way to open our communities is to continue practicing the measures we know are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 — wear your mask, keep physical distance from others, avoid gatherings, wash your hands often, and stay home when you are sick.”

The Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly. County risk levels will be reassigned every two weeks. The first week’s data will provide a “warning week” to prepare counties for potential risk level changes. The next assignment of risk levels will be announced January 26 and take effect January 29.

Updates to Warning Week data and county risk levels will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov.

Oregon vaccines top 100,000: ‘Now is not the time to let our guard down’

As of Monday, Oregon had administered a cumulative total of 104,595 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. In Malheur County, 281 people were either in the process of being vaccinated or had been fully vaccinated. All vaccinations throughout the state have occurred at hospitals, long-term care facilities, emergency medical service agencies, urgent care facilities and Local Public Health Authorities.

To date, 270,800 doses of vaccine have been delivered to sites across Oregon. For more vaccine details, visit OHA’s dashboards, which provide regularly updated vaccination data.

Despite the continuing rise in the number of vaccines being administered, COVID-19 case counts continue to climb as well. Oregon Health Authority reported 939 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. Monday, bringing the state total to 126,607. COVID-19 had also claimed 10 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,613.

In Malheur County, there have been a total of 3,043 cases, and COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 51 people.

“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “We are moving as quickly as possible to get the vaccine to all who want it, and we know that vaccines will help bring this pandemic to an end, but we still have a long way to go before we reach widespread immunity. We need to continue to do our part to keep ourselves and our families safe. Wash your hands and keep surfaces clean. If you leave the house, wear a mask and maintain 6 feet of space from others. If you or someone at home has symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fever, or cough, stay home and call your doctor.”

MCHD will offer two Phase 1a vaccine clinics this week

The Malheur County Health Department will host two first-dose, drive-up COVID-19 vaccine clinics this week, on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 13 and 14, for people in Phase 1a of the vaccine distribution sequence.

Wednesday’s Moderna vaccine clinic, located at the firehouse at the Ontario Municipal Airport, is fully booked. Roughly 100 first doses will be administered.

Thursday’s Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine clinic will take place in the parking garage at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Ontario and will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or until vaccine runs out. It will operate on a first-come, first-served basis. A total of 360 first doses are available. Those wishing to be vaccinated on Thursday will need to:

  • Meet the qualifications of Phase 1A
  • Live or work in Malheur County
  • Enter the parking garage using the SW 3rd Avenue entrance
  • Wear a face covering at the clinic
  • Remain in their vehicles for the duration of the vaccine process
  • Bring medical insurance information to the clinic
  • Be available for the second dose 21 days later, on Feb. 4

Additional confirmed COVID-19 vaccine clinics

  • Jan. 21: Moderna vaccine, 100 first doses. First-come, first-served at Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse

National Guard to speed vaccinations, school staff moved to Phase 1B

At a press conference on Friday, Jan. 8, Governor Kate Brown announced that to reach the goal of administering 12,000 vaccines a day, she has deployed the National Guard to provide vaccination support. They will start by providing logistical and nursing support for a Salem Health mass vaccination event that begins this weekend at the state fairgrounds. 

“We entered into this new year with hope following the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Oregon, the passage of a second federal relief bill, and the Legislature’s action to deliver a $400 million package to bring relief to many Oregonians,” Governor Brown said. “And even as this virus continues to threaten us with new contagious strains and feelings of fatigue that challenge a year into the pandemic, Oregonians keep showing our strength and resilience.” 

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen laid out the plan to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination to reach the goal of 12,000 vaccinations per day by the end of next week. The plan includes speeding up the Phase 1A process, getting more vaccine to providers who have the capacity to administer it, and enlisting retail pharmacies in all counties to process vaccines.

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said the department is committed to distributing as much vaccine as possible, as quickly as possible. “We are prepared, organized, and well supported by other county departments. We are working closely with other providers who have received vaccine allocations and will move through the highest priority groups together as quickly as possible. We appreciate Governor Brown’s call for urgency. This vaccine is safe and will save lives in our community.”

For more information on OHA’s strategy for increasing COVID-19 vaccination, watch this video of Director Allen.  

School staff moved to Phase 1B

At the start of the new year, Oregon’s COVID-19 Health Metrics for Returning to In-Person Instruction became advisory. This means that local school districts and communities will decide at the local level whether to return to in-person instruction, in consultation from their local public health authority. This week, teachers were added into Phase 1B of vaccination to offer them protection as schools begin to reopen. 

Educators and other staff at PK-12 schools and early learning centers will follow the Phase 1A group, which includes: health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and first responders, in the state’s most immediate prioritization order.

Oregon’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC) is considering how to prioritize critical workers, such as transportation workers and grocery store workers, older adults, people with underlying conditions and other factors. The next VAC meeting will stream live on Thursday, Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon. You can watch the Jan. 7 meeting here

COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee meets to discuss vaccine priorities

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC) met for the first time yesterday to discuss how critical workers and population will be prioritized in the state’s vaccine rollout.

The VAC will co-create a vaccine sequencing plan focused on health equity to ensure the state’s vaccine distribution plan meets the needs of populations who are most at-risk and hardest hit by the pandemic. These populations include communities of color, tribal communities and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Educators and other staff at PK-12 schools and early learning centers will follow the Phase 1A group, which includes: health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and first responders, in the state’s most immediate prioritization order. The vaccine advisory committee is considering how to prioritize critical workers, such as transportation workers and grocery store workers, older adults, people with underlying conditions and other factors.

“Urgency,” said Cherity Bloom-Miller, VAC member with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians Community Health Clinic. “We need to make some fast decisions to get vaccines out quickly.”

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen, who joined the group’s first meeting, shared the same sentiment. “The decisions you’re going to make will be incredibly hard and we’re asking you to make them incredibly quickly,” said Allen.

Today’s meeting was a vital first step in determining upcoming sequencing. The inaugural meeting of the diverse, 27-member group representing health organizations, nonprofits and businesses across rural and urban Oregon – including older adults, people with disabilities, cultural and ethnic communities, migrant and seasonal farm workers – came a day after the deadliest day of COVID-19 in the United States to date. The pandemic has now claimed more than 360,000 lives.

Recommendations for a vaccine sequencing plan are expected to develop over the next several weeks. For a YouTube link of yesterday’s meeting, click here. The next VAC meeting will be streaming live on Thursday, Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon.

For more on the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC), including a list of Advisory Committee Membership, click here.

We’re looking for a great Nurse Practitioner to join our team

Public Health Nurse Practitioners work in clinical settings to provide a range of services. They work to protect the health of Malheur County residents through prevention, education and the provision of direct services in the areas of home visiting, immunization, family planning, communicable disease, sexually transmitted disease, general health education and referral. They actively promote the mission of the department as well as maintain a basic knowledge of quality improvement, and sound nursing principles and practices. The successful candidate will have current licensure in good standing as a Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant or Certified Nurse Midwife in the State of Oregon. EOE, Veterans Preference.

This is a part-time, contract position that works one business day per week, and you get to pick the day. If this sounds like a good opportunity for you or someone you know, visit the Malheur County Job Opportunities listing to learn more about the position and apply.

Oregon has a plan to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen and Dr. Dana Hargunani, OHA’s chief medical officer, held a media briefing on Tuesday to discuss the steps OHA is taking to scale up Oregon’s vaccine program and achieve Governor Brown’s goal of 12,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per day within the next two weeks. They announced that this week OHA will take the following steps: 

  • Speed Phase 1A prioritization by simplifying the staging and sequencing among groups. 
  • Speed the number of doses delivered to nursing home staff and residents by activating Part B of federal pharmacy partnerships. OHA anticipates this change will speed vaccinations to approximately 80,000 staff and residents.  
  • Speed the number of doses delivered to health care workers and other Phase 1A groups by giving them the option to get vaccinated at retail pharmacies. 
  • Make more doses available to Phase 1A workers by leveraging every available public health capability at our disposal.  
  • Speed the number of doses delivered to unaffiliated health care workers, nursing home staff and others by supporting innovative partnerships, such as a collaboration between OHSU and labor union SEIU to launch a pilot vaccination effort.  

Oregon’s pace of COVID-19 vaccinations is on par with other states, with more than 1.2 percent of the population having been vaccinated as of January 4, 2021. 

Oregon is currently in Phase 1A of the vaccination effort. So far, members of Group 1 of Phase 1A are receiving vaccine, which includes staff who work in hospitals, urgent care settings, skilled nursing and memory care facilities (and residents) and tribal health programs, as well as emergency medical service providers and other first responders. 

The changes give providers more flexibility to vaccinate people in other groups in Phase 1A, rather than each group getting vaccinated sequentially. 

Others who are eligible for Phase 1A vaccinations include people who work in:  

  • Congregate care sites, such as nursing homes and residential behavioral health programs.  
  • Outpatient providers who serve specific high-risk groups. 
  • Home health providers.  
  • All other outpatient providers. 
  • Public health programs, and a range of other front-line roles. 

According to Director Allen, speeding up the process within Phase 1A will mean that critical workers and vulnerable populations, followed by the general population, will be served sooner.  

“That will save more lives and end the pandemic in Oregon sooner, too,” Allen said. “But as we roll out the vaccines, all of us need to keep taking the steps that have saved thousands of lives in Oregon and staved off the worst extremes of the crisis that we’ve seen in other states: Keep wearing your masks, maintain physical distancing, minimize your indoor social get-togethers, stay home if you feel sick, and wash your hands well and often.” 

Sequencing for future phases will be determined by the new Vaccine Advisory Committee, which meets for the first time on Thursday. We will share updates from these meetings as they become available. More information can be found on OHA’s COVID-19 vaccine webpage (English or Spanish).