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).