Malheur County Submits COVID-19 Vaccine Health Equity Plan

Today, Malheur County submitted the COVID-19 Vaccine Health Equity Plan to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). This plan outlines the commitment to key approaches and collaborations to identify and provide access to those who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. The Malheur County Health Department involved several team members to capture the many efforts the county has made and plans ahead to improve protection through vaccination. The vision of the Health Department played an important role in the team’s approach to writing the plan and focusing on our goal for public health.

Vision: Everyone in Malheur County leads a healthy, fulfilling and productive life, no matter who you are. We have strong relationships with diverse communities to eliminate health gaps and promote optimal health. By connecting people and programs, we make substantial, measurable progress in improving the health of all in Malheur County.

No county in Oregon, Idaho, or Washington has a higher Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) score than Malheur County, which explains part of why there are such higher rates of COVID-19 infection and low rates of COVID-19 immunization here. Read more about the OHA’s critical population planning and Malheur’s SVI score here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” Health disparities or inequities are types of unfair health differences closely linked with social, economic, or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people.

OHA statewide data  shows the percentage of people who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is significantly higher for white people than for many communities of color. Where the state’s rate for people who identify as white and non-Hispanic is 45%, the rate for Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native residents is just above 30%. In Malheur, Klamath, Lake and Harney counties, the COVID-19 rate for people who identify as white and non-Hispanic is 32.7%, while the rate for Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native residents is 14.6%.

Residents in Malheur County will continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 without increased vaccination to protect those who are most vulnerable. The Equity Plan demonstrates our commitment in the COVID-19 response to prioritizing access and education as we move closer to the health department’s vision of health for all.

Encouraging COVID-19 Vaccination at Work

COVID-19 Vaccination for Essential Workers | CDC

Malheur County continues to lag behind Idaho and Oregon state average COVID-19 vaccination rates, meaning many people in our community are still at risk of being infected and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. However, we do have many people who work who are vaccinated and protect themselves and the people they work with and serve. Many outbreaks start at work and cause hardship on the business, those who are sick, and those who must quarantine. We want people to be protected and businesses to thrive through COVID-19 vaccination.

One way people who are vaccinated can help their employer and coworkers is to encourage vaccination at work. Customize the templates below to communicate with staff about the COVID-19 vaccine. Share with business owners and managers and ask if these can be shared widely. Add your own logos and customize text to make it appropriate for your business or organization.

E-mail and Message Templates for Businesses About COVID-19 Vaccines:

  • Introductory Letter This letter can be sent to your branches, offices, teams, or units to encourage review and use of the toolkit materials. The link also includes communication tools like vaccine fact sheets, posters, social media graphics, stickers you can print.
  • Letter to Employees This letter about COVID-19 vaccination information can be sent to your employees.
  • Newsletter Content  This short newsletter-style blurb can be used in e-newsletters or hard copy newsletters that you distribute to employees. Consider a “special edition” newsletter and add information about who to contact for more information.

Thanks to Southwest District Health for sharing their excellent Vaccination Communication Toolkit.

No change to county risk level this week

Malheur County is more than halfway to 65% vaccination goal

Malheur County will remain at the High Risk level when updates are made to the state’s public health framework this Friday. During the two-week period from May 9-22, Malheur County reported 38 new cases of COVID-19, a marked decrease from the two periods prior. The case rate, or number of cases per 100,000 people, was 118.4 and test positivity rate was 7.8%. This week’s Risk Levels Summary Table is available here.

“The science is clear: vaccines are very effective in keeping people safe from COVID-19, and they are the key to returning to normal life and lifting health and safety restrictions statewide,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a news release on Tuesday. “This disease remains dangerous for those in communities with high rates of unvaccinated individuals. That’s why I’m encouraging all Oregonians to roll up your sleeves, take your shot, and get a chance to change your life. It’s never been easier to get vaccinated, and you may just end up a winner through the Take Your Shot, Oregon campaign.”

Last week, Gov. Brown unveiled the campaign aimed at incentivizing Oregonians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 through monetary prizes. A total of $1.86 million will be given away next month, and Oregonians age 12 and older who receive a dose of any of the three available vaccines by June 27 will be eligible to win.

“In this final push to reach every Oregonian with a vaccine and to meet our goal of at least 70% of adults vaccinated so that we can fully reopen our economy, we will need to pull on every lever we have. So, if you’ve been waiting to get a vaccine or you just haven’t gotten around to it yet, we’re going to give you an extra incentive. How about a chance to win a million dollars? Take Your Shot Oregon, roll up your sleeves, and get a chance to change your life,” Gov. Brown said during a press conference on May 21.

Statewide, 64.3% of adults had received a dose of vaccine as of May 25. Gov. Brown set the 70% goal earlier this month, saying that most restrictions would be lifted when it is reached. An additional goal of vaccinating 65% of people age 16 and older was set for each of the state’s 36 counties, enabling those that meet it to move into the Lower Risk level sooner than the rest of the state.

Malheur County is more than halfway to that goal, with 33.6% of the 16+ population vaccinated with at least one dose. The counties of Benton, Hood River, Multnomah, Washington and Lincoln have reached the 65% goal.

“Lincoln County was just over 100 vaccines away from their goal last Friday morning, and by noon they had reached it. They are going into the upcoming holiday weekend with minimal restrictions on their economy and confidence that the majority of their population is protected from the virus. We can achieve the same in Malheur County,” said Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department. “Anyone who is unable to get to a vaccine can call the Health Department to request a home visit. We also offer worksite vaccination, and we have staff who are fluent in both English and Spanish. We are working with our community partners to ensure that vaccines are accessible to everyone age 12 and up, no matter where you are in Malheur County or what your individual needs might be.”

At last count, 8,539 of the 16,534 people who make up 65% of the 16+ population in Malheur County have received a dose of vaccine, leaving 7,995 to reach the goal. This information is available on Oregon Health Authority’s data dashboard, COVID-19 Vaccination Governor’s Goal.

For more information, or to inquire about a home or worksite vaccine, call 541-889-7279.

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).  

Oregon ends nearly 50-year participation in federal Title X program in response to Trump administration gag rule

Malheur County Health Department is affected by the termination of Title X funding, but will continue to provide reproductive health services, including birth control, STI testing and treatment, at low to no cost with other funding. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Published on Oregon Health Authority External Relations August 27, 2019

After the Oregon Health Authority declined to use federal dollars in the wake of new Trump administration rules that prevent health practitioners from discussing abortion with their patients, the federal Department of Health and Human Services directed Oregon to give up its Title X grant or face grant termination. In response, Oregon has no choice but to relinquish funding and end its Title X grant.

Health clinics that received Title X funding provide comprehensive reproductive health care that helps their patients plan the timing and size of their families, prevent unwanted pregnancies, diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections and detect cancer. Last year Title X-funded clinics served 44,241 Oregonians.

Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, issued the following statement regarding the new federal gag rule and OHA’s decision to leave the Title X program:

Yesterday the Oregon Health Authority faced a deadline imposed by the federal government to withdraw from the Title X family planning program, or face termination for non-compliance. Last week Oregon informed the United States Department of Health and Human Services that we had suspended the use of the federal funds to avoid imposing the administration’s newly implemented gag rule on Oregon women. The federal government has rejected Oregon’s plan.

The new federal gag rule, which was not informed by evidence-based medical practice, bars health care providers from fully informing Oregon women about their most personal reproductive health choices and denies them access to a comprehensive range of health services. Oregon is the lead plaintiff, joined by 19 other states and the District of Columbia, as well as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association, in a lawsuit challenging the Title X rule.

The federal deadline leaves Oregon no choice but to end our nearly 50-year participation in Title X and relinquish our grant. We cannot violate our own state laws that guarantee Oregon women full access to reproductive health services and prohibit any restriction on benefits, services or information regarding a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Yesterday the Oregon Health Authority faced a deadline imposed by the federal government to withdraw from the Title X family planning program, or face termination for non-compliance. Last week Oregon informed the United States Department of Health and Human Services that we had suspended the use of the federal funds to avoid imposing the administration’s newly implemented gag rule on Oregon women. The federal government has rejected Oregon’s plan.

The new federal gag rule, which was not informed by evidence-based medical practice, bars health care providers from fully informing Oregon women about their most personal reproductive health choices and denies them access to a comprehensive range of health services. Oregon is the lead plaintiff, joined by 19 other states and the District of Columbia, as well as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association, in a lawsuit challenging the Title X rule.

The federal deadline leaves Oregon no choice but to end our nearly 50-year participation in Title X and relinquish our grant. We cannot violate our own state laws that guarantee Oregon women full access to reproductive health services and prohibit any restriction on benefits, services or information regarding a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Oregon stands in solidarity with other states in maintaining that the new Title X rule will reduce access to birth control, cancer screenings and reproductive choices. Oregon is fortunate to have funds available to continue offering comprehensive reproductive health care services. Every person in Oregon should know this federal action will not prevent health clinics and care providers from continuing to offer the full range of high-quality, personalized and trusted reproductive health services they have always delivered.

7 Things You Should Know About Bats and Rabies

70% of Americans who die from rabies in the US were infected by bats – CDC Vital Signs. But bats are not bad! We need to know more to prevent infection and protect this species that protects us from other diseases.

As the weather warms up, adult bats come out of hibernation, baby bats are learning to fly, and humans get outdoors, which means a big increase in human-bat interactions compared to other times of year. Bats can be infected with rabies and can spread that infection to humans who have bare skin contact with bats or bat saliva. 

Oregon has 15 species of bats. Learn more about them at the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Bats are flying mammals that can reach speeds of 20 to 30 mph. Some of Oregon’s species migrate south in winter while some remain here and hibernate. Bats have ecolocation which allows them to make high-pitched sounds then listen to the echo of those sounds to locate where objects are. Echolocation helps them find even the smallest insect. 

Kate Cole from Public Health Insider compiled seven important things to know about bats and rabies. Please share this information with your friends, family, and children to make sure they know how to protect themselves from rabies in bats.

7. Bats are the main source of rabies in the United States. 

All mammals can get rabies, but in the United States, bats are the primary animal source of rabies. 

6. If you see a bat, do not touch it!! 

Any bare skin contact with a bat or its saliva, or waking up to a bat in your room, could put you at risk for exposure to rabies. Teach your kids not to touch bats, or any wild animal, and be sure to keep your pets away from bats. Talk to your family about the importance of respecting wildlife from a distance.  

5. If you think you or your children or pets may have touched or picked up a bat, take immediate action: 

  • Immediately wash the area that came into contact with the bat thoroughly with soap and water.  
  • Call your medical provider. If a person has been exposed to rabies, an injection of immune globulin and a series of rabies vaccinations need to be given as soon as possible to prevent infection and death. 
  • If you think you had contact with a bat, try to trap it! Trapping it means it can be tested for rabies and people potentially exposed can get the treatment they need. “How am I supposed to trap a bat?” you ask. Good news – there’s a how-to video.

4Pets are at-risk for getting rabies from bats, too. 

Vaccinate your pets against rabies to protect them in case they are exposed. Talk to your veterinarian to see if your furry family members need to update their rabies vaccine.  

Keep your pet under direct supervision so they don’t come into contact with bats. If you suspect your pet has come into contact with a bat, call your veterinarian, even if your pet is up to date on its vaccinations. Your veterinarian may need to give it a booster shot to protect it! 

3If you have problems with bats getting inside your house, you can do a lot to make your home more bat-proof. 

Putting screens on windows can prevent bats from accidentally flying into your home. Sometimes, bats are attracted to nesting in attics or inside a wall. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has excellent tips on easy things you can do to your home or building to prevent bats from getting inside

2. Most bats don’t have rabies. 

Although exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that less than 1% of bats are infected with rabies. Unfortunately, you cannot tell if a bat has rabies by looking at it; only testing the brain tissue on a dead bat can confirm if a bat has rabies (live bats need to be humanely euthanized before they can be tested for rabies). So, assume all bats may have rabies and never touch them. 

1. Bats are a vital part of our local ecosystem.  

Don’t let all this information about rabies give you a negative opinion on bats. What bats enjoy is eating large amounts of night-flying insects like mosquitos, termites, and agricultural pests, diminishing mosquito-related diseases and the need for pesticides in our community. In fact, some people try to attract bats to their property to help reduce the number of insects. For information on how to build a bat house for your yard, check out this resource.

Article adapted from Public Health Insider.

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