Local Health Providers Pen Letter to Community

Letter to our community who we care for and genuinely care about.

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Your local healthcare team cares immensely about the health and safety of our patients.  We believe it is important to show where we stand on the COVID-19 crisis in our community.  It is difficult for anyone to wade through the vast amount of data on COVID-19 and to know which sources to believe.  As your trusted experts, we wholeheartedly support the following:

  • We welcome an open and honest discussion about the risks & benefits of the COVID 19 vaccines. 
  • In general, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks of acquiring and spreading SARs CoV-2. 
  • Immunization protects you from severe illness, hospitalization, and death. 
  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the chances of spread to others.

Our ethical obligation is to provide the best care based on scientific data from reliable sources.  We do not take our responsibility lightly and have committed our careers to benefit the health and wellbeing of others. 

We can significantly reduce the impact of this pandemic if we work together to learn the facts and act accordingly.  We sincerely appreciate the bravery and courage of our neighbors, friends, and community who have practiced social distancing, masking, and obtained their COVID-19 vaccine.  With your help, we can avoid further harm to our loved ones. 

Talk to your health care provider and discuss what is right for you.

  • Brad Barlow, MD
  • Sage Benintendi Stringer, MPAS, PA-C
  • Christina Benson, PA-C
  • Matea Berria, MSPAS, PA-C
  • Matthew Berria, PhD, PA-C
  • David Brauer, MD
  • Paola D’Aleman, MD
  • Michelle DeVoe, DO, FAAP
  • Sandra Dunbrasky, MD, FAAP
  • Patricia Engel, MD
  • Leslie Filler, DNP, APRN, FNP-C
  • Stephanie Geddes, PharmD
  • Aaron Gopp, MSN, CRNA
  • Sean Hackett, MS, PA-C
  • Brook Hally, PharmD
  • Jerrimi Helmick, FNP
  • Markus Hess, PharmD
  • Nicole Heywood, PA-C
  • Mary James, MPAS, PA-C
  • Trenton Jenks, PharmD, BCGP
  • Raquel Johnson, NP
  • Daniel Jones, DO
  • Brian Kitamura, MD
  • Judd Knudsen, RPh
  • Alex Landevarde, PharmD
  • Sarah Laiosa, DO
  • Chelsie Lewis, FNP
  • Kailey Meskill, MPAS, PA-C
  • Daisy Miller, DO
  • Kayla Nagy, MPAS, PA-C
  • Judy Norris, MSN, FNP-BC
  • James Roth, MD
  • Emily Russell, PA-C
  • Eric Rysenga, MD
  • Julie Rysenga, MD
  • Amanda Silue, PA-C
  • Frank Spokas, MD
  • MariSue Susman, PNP
  • Barbara Tesnohlidek, MD
  • Tony Tesnohlidek, MD
  • Jennifer Tolman, PharmD
  • Michael Twomey, MD

Masks recommended outdoors beginning Friday

The Most Face-Friendly Mask We've Tested Is Half Off

As Covid continues to surge through Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has announced an outdoor mask requirement beginning Friday, Aug. 27. Adults and children over 5 will be asked to wear masks in outdoor settings where people are close to each other, unless they are actively eating or drinking, and people are encouraged to social distance from each other. Brown also encouraged people to wear masks when visiting people in their homes and social distance cannot be maintained.

Shortages of hospital beds, equipment, supplies and staff have caused Brown to act to stop the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

People will need to wear masks regardless of whether they are vaccinated. Although COVID vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death, public health officials are concerned about evidence that fully vaccinated people can still become infected and spread COVID to others, Brown said.

“The delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic,” the governor said in a news release, noting that Oregon has experienced record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations so far in the ongoing delta-fueled wave. “Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”

In Malheur County, cases are growing exponentially week after week, with 113 cases recorded in the week ending Aug. 20, “This is a frustrating situation for everyone,” said Malheur County Health Department PIO Angie Sillonis. “There are steps we can all take to stop the spread of this virus. The first is to avoid large gatherings, the second is to wear masks when we’re around other people, and the third is to get vaccinated,” she said.

 “Vaccination is the best way to get back to living our lives as we did before Covid,” Sillonis said. Currently, 40 percent of eligible Malheur County residents are vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. That number needs to be higher than 80 percent to help keep our fellow community members safe, she added.

There are exceptions to the requirement, which align with the recent statewide indoor mask requirement. It does not apply to:

  • Children under 5
  • Individuals who are actively eating, drinking or sleeping, as well as individuals living outdoors
  • People playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask, such as swimming
  • Individuals delivering a speech or performing, such as with outdoor music or theater
  • Mask requirements for K-12 schools will fall under the school mask rule. Outside public events, spectator events and gatherings of general public on K-12 school grounds will be subject to the rule
  • Entities subject to the ADA must continue to comply with that law

Pfizer vaccine receives full FDA approval

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The Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA announced Monday morning.

“We hope full approval of the vaccine will instill more confidence in anyone who has been hesitant about receiving the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine. This means the Pfizer vaccine has the same approval as the rest of the standard vaccines on the market which we rely on to keep ourselves protected from other diseases,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department Director.

This is the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus to receive full approval, though it is still under emergency use authorization for adolescents age 12-15. Even without full approval, Poe said, “the great news is that Pfizer is available to anyone age 12 and up and can be received at the same time as other vaccines. Now is the time to act as cases are going up and kids are going back to school.”

The vaccine has been under an EUA since Dec. 11, 2020 for individuals age 16 and older, but the full approval comes from expanded safety and efficacy data released by the manufacturer this April. An analysis of 927 confirmed cases found that the vaccine had 91.3 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease up through six months after the second dose. In addition, the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing severe disease, as defined by the CDC, Pfizer said.

The vaccine will be marketed as Comirnaty. The Pfizer vaccine uses mRNA technology, and does not contain live virus.

 “Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of Comirnaty’s safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and research, in a statement.

 “I read an article about a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation which said 31 percent of unvaccinated people would be more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine once one of them received full approval from the FDA,” said Health Department Nursing Supervisor Rebecca Stricker. “My hope is that this approval will give people the confidence they need to get the vaccine. I would give anything to put an end to this pandemic, and if this change encourages people to get vaccinated, we are that much closer to keeping our public safe and healthy.” In Malheur County, most physician’s offices and clinics provide vaccines, so call your provider to schedule an appointment. Vaccines are also available at the Health Department. To schedule an appointment, call 541-889-7279.


Health care workers, K-12 education staff will need to be vaccinated

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Two new vaccination measures intended to keep Oregonians safe were announced Thursday by Gov. Kate Brown. The measures will address Oregon’s hospital crisis caused by the Delta variant surge, and to help keep Oregon students safe and minimize disruptions to in-person instruction.

  • Oregon’s vaccination requirement for health care workers will no longer have a testing alternative. Health care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later.
  • All teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later.

“The Delta variant has put enormous pressure on our health systems, and health care workers are being stretched to their absolute limits providing life-saving treatment for the patients in their care,” said Brown. “I am devoting all available resources to help, and we must proactively implement solutions right now. We need every single frontline health care worker healthy and available to treat patients.”

In both cases, health care workers and educators who are not yet vaccinated are urged to speak with their doctor or primary care provider to get their remaining questions about vaccination answered immediately, so they can begin the vaccination process in time to meet the new requirements. In the case of educators, the Governor outlined the importance of masks and staff vaccinations to protect students: because children under 12 are still not yet eligible for vaccination, masks are a critical mitigation measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ensuring all the adults around students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 adds another layer of protection for students as well.

“Our kids need to be in the classroom full-time, five days a week, and we have to do everything we can to make that happen,” said Brown. “While we are still learning about the Delta variant, we know from previous experience that when schools open with safety measures in place, the risk of transmission is low. That’s why I’ve directed the Oregon Health Authority to issue a rule requiring all teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools to be fully vaccinated.”

The Governor also outlined the steps Oregon is taking to support hospitals during the ongoing surge in cases and hospitalizations, including deploying the National Guard and nurse strike teams, establishing temporary decompression units to free up bed space, and removing barriers to discharging patients who no longer require hospital-level care. Oregon has also made requests to FEMA and the President for additional federal resources and support. The Governor announced she has formed a Hospital Crisis Prevention and Response group consisting of health care stakeholders to problem solve in real time and suggest new measures to aid health care workers and hospitals during the ongoing hospital crisis.

As of Wednesday, Malheur County is averaging 15 new cases of COVID-19 every day, with a test positivity rate of 10.7 percent. Almost 40 percent of Malheur County’s eligible population has been vaccinated against the virus, and 19 people are being vaccinated every day.




CDC strengthens COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for pregnant people

If you’re pregnant you may be wondering whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently strengthened its vaccine recommendation for pregnant people.  

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people ages 12 and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. 

Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 than people who are not pregnant. Fortunately, severe illness from COVID-19 during pregnancy can be avoided by getting fully vaccinated.  In recent weeks, infections among those who are pregnant have been increasing. With the combination of low rates of vaccinations in pregnant people, the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, and the higher risk of complications from COVID-19 during pregnancy —it’s important to protect yourself if you are pregnant.  

To read more about COVID-19 vaccination before or during pregnancy, visit the Oregon Vaccine News blog

Pregnant person with black shirt, black medium length hair, black shoes, white pants and two speech bubbles.

Vaccine clinic Thursday in Nyssa

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'DON'T WAIT VACCINES ARE HERE AGES 12 & OLDER AUGUST 19 5 PM 8 PM Nyssa High School 824 Adrian Blvd, Nyssa, OR VALLEY Family Health Care Valley Family Health Care is offering the Pfizer Vaccine. No Appointment Necessary vfhc.org'
May be an image of 1 person and text that says '000 NO ESPERES LAS VACUNAS ESTAN AQUÍ EDADES 12 Y MAYORES AGOSTO 19 5 PM -8 PM Nyssa High School 824 Adrian Blvd, Nyssa, OR Valley Family Health Care está ofreciendo la vacuna Pfizer. VALLEY Family Health Care Conduce/Camine Hacia Mac No Se Necesita Cita Previa vfhc.org'

Valley Family Health Care will provide COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone over 12 Thursday, Aug. 19, at Nyssa High School, 824 Adrian Blvd., in Nyssa. As cases are surging and hospital beds are filling throughout Eastern Oregon, it is more important than ever that people consider vaccination.





Some exceptions to the school mask rule

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Yesterday, the Oregon Department of Education released updated guidance regarding wearing masks in school. As your local public health authority, we know that vaccination, mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent hand-washing help reduce the spread of the virus which causes COVID-19. Most children in schools are not vaccinated against COVID-19, so we encourage parents and schools to ensure children are maintaining safety measures, particularly as we are currently seeing new high numbers of infections across Oregon.

The guidance from ODE and the Oregon Health Authority outline the situations in which individuals in schools will not be required to wear a mask. These situations include:

  • Sleeping
  • Actively eating or drinking
  • Engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask, face covering or face shield not feasible, such as when actively swimming
  • In a private individual workspace, meaning an indoor space within a public or private workplace used for work by one individual at a time that is enclosed on all sides with walls from floor to ceiling, and with a closed door
  • Must remove the mask, face covering or face shield briefly because the individual’s identity needs to be confirmed by visual comparison
  • Practicing or playing a competitive sport at any level
  • Performing, including but not limited to playing music (an instrument which requires using the mouth), delivering a speech to an audience, and theater
  • Engaged in a sport during physical education class such as swimming, other water sports, or a sport where wearing a mask could be a strangulation hazard, such as gymnastics or wrestling
  • Alone in a private office enclosed by walls on all sides with a door that is closed
  • Under the age of 5 (unless the individual is riding a school bus, in which case all individuals over age 2 will be required to wear a face covering)
  • In preschool or early learning environments, individuals under age 2 are not required to wear face coverings.

The Oregon Health Authority will review the situation monthly, with the goal of returning to local decision-making.

Source: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Documents/Schools%20and%20COVID-19%20FAQ.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Third Vaccine Dose Recommended for Immunocompromised Individuals

Oregon Health Authority graphic.  Illustration of a man mid-stride wearing a mask on light gray background. Yellow block and some blue grid. Text: I'm fully vaccinated. Do I need a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine? An additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is recommended only to people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems. Vaccines given according to the currently recommended schedule continue to be highly effective in reducing the risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup have all recommended an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be administered to people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems.

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adjusted the existing Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to allow certain immunocompromised people to receive a third, additional dose of vaccine.

“The country has entered yet another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Vaccines.”

For the purposes of this announcement, the FDA decision refers to “additional doses” of vaccine in individuals thought not to have an adequate immune response following a primary vaccine series. “Boosters,” or doses administered to individuals who had adequate immune responses but thought to have a waning response with time, were not the topic of this FDA decision for authorization.

Under the adjusted EUA guidelines, “immunocompromised individuals” are defined as solid organ transplant recipients or others who have similar reductions in their immune response.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — made up of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations on the use of vaccines in the US — met Aug. 13 to provide further recommendations on the FDA’s decision.

During its meeting, the ACIP unanimously voted to adopt the FDA’s adjusted EUA that would allow immunocompromised individuals who complete a two-dose mRNA vaccine series (Pfizer or Moderna) to receive an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine.

The ACIP also expanded the FDA’s definition of “immunocompromised individuals” to include people who:

  • Are undergoing active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies
  • Have received solid-organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • Have received CAR (chimeric antigen receptor)-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within two years of transplantation or are taking immunosuppression therapy)
  • Have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge, Wiskott-Aldrich syndromes)
  • Have advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Are undergoing active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., ≥20mg prednisone or equivalent per day), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, TNF blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory

The full list of conditions can be found here. Following its meeting, ACIP sent its recommendations to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH who signed and endorsed the recommendations later that day.

“This official CDC recommendation — which follows FDA’s decision to amend the emergency use authorizations of the vaccines — is an important step in ensuring everyone, including those most vulnerable to COVID-19, can get as much protection as possible from COVID-19 vaccination,” said Director Walensky in an Aug. 13 media statement.

Following Director Walensky and the CDC’s decision, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup convened to discuss implications of the adjusted EUA in Oregon.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup — the group of nationally acclaimed immunizations and public health scientists independently reviewing the safety and efficacy of all FDA authorized COVID-19 vaccines for California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — endorsed the FDA and CDC recommendations as well.

“To provide maximal protection to this vulnerable population, the Workgroup reiterates its recommendation that all persons 12 years and older, especially those with moderate to severe immunosuppression and those who are in close contact with them, receive an initial complete series of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine,” said the members of the workgroup in an official media statement. “Moreover, persons with moderate to severe immunosuppression who have received a complete series should receive an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, based on current limited data on the safety and immunogenicity of an additional dose.”

According to the FDA’s updated EUA:

  1. A third dose of the Pfizer vaccine may be administered at least 28 days following the second dose of a two-dose regimen to immunocompromised individuals ages 12 and older.
  2. A third dose of the Moderna vaccine may be administered at least 28 days following the second dose of a two-dose regimen to immunocompromised individuals ages 18 and older.

The additional shot recommendation only applies to individuals who are considered immunocompromised per the adjusted EUA language.

Under current conditions, the CDC and ACIP do not recommend administering additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to individuals who are not included in the immunocompromised definition. Additional doses recommended by a doctor to people who do not meet the immunocompromised criteria for this EUA should be discussed directly with the manufacturer and FDA. 

Vaccines given according to the currently recommended schedule continue to be highly effective in reducing the risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Observational data confirm that currently available vaccines are effective against new variants, including the Delta variant.

Folks who believe they are eligible for an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine based on the conditions outlined in the adjusted EUA should talk with their health care provider to learn more. To monitor the safety of additional doses, the Workgroup continues to encourage all recipients of COVID-19 vaccine with access to a smartphone to participate in the v-safe program.

While an additional dose of mRNA vaccine is likely to increase protection in moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals, people who receive a third dose should continue to wear a mask, stay six feet apart from others, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

Further recommendations regarding additional doses for immunocompromised individuals can be found on the interim clinical recommendations released by the CDC.


Quit Now: E-cigarettes and Vaping

E-Cig vapor may contain nicotine, VOCs, heavy metals, carcinogens, flavoring and ultrafine particles

Why are we concerned about e-cigarettes and vaping? In short, the ingredients in e-cigarette liquid have caused users health problems. The health effects of e-cigarettes are still being studied but nicotine addictionharmful chemical additivesbattery explosions causing injury, acute nicotine poisoning and vaping related lung injury have all been linked to use of e-cigarettes and vaping.

If you’re ready to quit, you may be eligible for free products to help you quit. Call today!

1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)


Spanish Quit Line

1-855-DEJELO-YA (1-855-335356-92)


TTY: 1-877-777-6534

Eat the Rainbow

The WIC Farmers Market continues Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the front lawn of the Malheur County Health Department building, 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario. The public is encouraged to support the vendor, as well.

Women, Infants, and Children