Eight-day vaccine event begins April 16 in Ontario

Malheur County, in collaboration with Oregon Health Authority and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic April 16-23 at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, located at 795 N.W. 9th St. in Ontario. The event will distribute up to 2,000 doses of vaccine over eight days. The event was scheduled to provide people in Malheur County with convenient opportunities for vaccination.

The vaccine is free and health insurance is not required, but those who have insurance are asked to bring their insurance card with them. Everyone who is age 18+ can be vaccinated at this event, regardless of immigration status. No one will be asked to provide proof of identification or documentation.

Participants will receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first dose of Moderna and be scheduled for a second dose.

The event will be held on the following dates. No appointment is necessary, but vaccinations will depend on supply for that day.

  • Friday, April 16, 4-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 17, 12-8 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 18, 12-8 p.m.
  • Monday, April 19, 4-8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 20, 4-8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 21, 4-8 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 22, 4-8 p.m.
  • Friday, April 23, 4-8 p.m.

Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine available to people age 16-17 and will not be available at this vaccine event. For information on getting a Pfizer vaccine, or to learn more about this vaccination event, call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279.

Governor expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Oregonians over 16, effective April 19

Governor Kate Brown announced today that all Oregonians over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning April 19.

“We are locked in a race between vaccine distribution and the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants. Today, Oregon will pass the threshold of 2 million vaccine doses administered. And yet, in communities across Oregon, COVID-19 is spreading at concerning rates. We must move as quickly as possible to get more shots in arms. Beginning April 19, all Oregonians over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive a vaccine,” she said.

Read the full press release here.

Governor announces expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine

Governor Kate Brown announced yesterday that COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Oregon has been expanded to include age-eligible household family members of frontline workers and that the state is expanding its list of qualifying underlying health conditions to align with the CDC’s revised list.

“As we move into the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to deploy a vaccine strategy that is centered on prioritizing our most vulnerable, and ensuring access to the vaccine for everyone. To do this, we need to move in a manner that is both fast and fair,” she said.

The full press release is available here.

Malheur County gets the OK to open eligibility to Group 7 effective immediately

The Governor’s Office today approved Malheur County’s request to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to Group 7 of the state’s vaccine timeline. Effective immediately, frontline workers, people living in multi-generational households, and anyone age 16 and older with an underlying health condition can be vaccinated, in addition to the previously eligible groups.

The county’s request was submitted to the Governor’s Office in the form of a letter on March 19 that also addressed county size as it relates to COVID-19 risk assessment and differences between county and school metrics. The other two requests were not addressed in today’s approval.

“This is welcomed news from the state,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “This week, for the first time in over a month, Malheur County’s test positivity and case rates showed an increase in the two-week report released by the Governor’s Office. That’s not something we want to see become a trend, and the only way we’re going to keep both of those rates down – and Malheur County open – is through widespread immunity. Vaccines work, they’re safe, and we’re ready to administer it at our weekly clinic tomorrow to everyone who is eligible.”

The MCHD/Incident Command team will host a vaccine clinic tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. The clinic is open to the following:

As more Americans become vaccinated against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has updated its guidance to reflect new information as it is available. As of March 23, the CDC has stated that it is generally OK for fully vaccinated* people to:

  • Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks (unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19).
  • Not quarantine after exposure

*Fully vaccinated means at least two weeks since receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after receiving a one-dose vaccine.

Health Department offers all-day vaccine clinics in April

Angie Gerrard, RN/BSN

In response to expanding eligibility in Oregon, the Malheur County Health Department has lengthened the hours of its weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics starting this Thursday. Throughout the month of April, clinics will take place every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. First and second doses of Moderna vaccine will be available throughout.

“With eligibility opening up to most adults in Malheur County, we felt that an all-day clinic was the best approach. People can stop by at their convenience, whether it’s before or after work, at lunch or during a break in activities,” said MCHD Communicable Disease Coordinator Angie Gerrard, RN/BSN. “I know we’re all eager to put this pandemic behind us, and vaccination of a large percentage of the community is what will allow us to do that. We know these vaccines are safe and life-saving, and we want make the process of getting the vaccine as easy for people as possible.”

Once inside, the vaccine process takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete. The last few clinics have had little to no wait time to enter. To speed up the process, people can print and fill out the two required forms – Vaccine Screening & Consent English/Español and Pre-Vaccination Checklist English/Español – and bring them to the clinic. No other paperwork or documentation is required.

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opened last week to the following groups:

  • All adults 45-64 with underlying health conditions
  • Migrant and seasonal farm workers
  • Seafood and agricultural workers
  • Food processing workers
  • People living in low-income senior housing, senior congregate and independent living
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness
  • People currently displaced by wildfires
  • Wildland firefighters
  • Pregnant people 16 and older

On Monday, these groups will be added:

  • Frontline workers as defined by CDC
  • Individuals living in a multigenerational household
  • Adults 16–44 with one or more underlying health conditions with increased risk

For more information about each of these populations and a full list of eligible groups, click here for English, or here for Español.

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opens to Group 7 on April 5

The Oregon Health Authority announced today that it is advancing the COVID-19 vaccine timeline by two weeks for people in Phase 1B, Group 7. Beginning April 5, eligibility opens up to:

  • Frontline workers as defined by CDC
  • Individuals living in a multigenerational household
  • Adults 16–44 with one or more underlying health conditions with increased risk

For information about each of these populations, please see pages 2 and 3 of the state’s Vaccine Sequencing Infographic.

Everyone who is 16 years or older will continue to be eligible to get vaccinated on a statewide basis on May 1, as OHA announced last week, with one new change: Counties may open to all residents on April 26, based on an application. attesting that they are ready to move forward. 

“We’re glad that the state has responded to our ongoing request to open eligibility and provide access to more people in Malheur County,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

Here are more highlights from today’s announcement:

  • Approximately eight out of 10 people who are eligible for the vaccine in Oregon have received at least one vaccination and 25% of all people in Oregon have gotten at least one shot. The national average is 26%.  
  • Cases and hospitalizations continue to drop. Oregon’s rolling seven-day case average of new cases as of yesterday was 315. That’s a decline of 73% since Jan. 1 and 52% since the beginning of February. Among U.S. states, Oregon is fourth lowest in cumulative daily cases per 100,000 people. 
  • Oregon’s testing capacity exceeds the demand for testing. Since COVID-19 cases are decreasing, the need for testing has also decreased. And test positivity has decreased to a positivity rate of 2.2% as of March 14.   

To date, the MCHD/Incident Comment team has administered 5,573 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and will continue to host vaccine clinics at Four Rivers Cultural Center every Thursday through the month of April.

Malheur County’s test positivity and case rates continue to decline

For the third consecutive reporting period over the past four weeks, COVID-19 test positivity and case rates in Malheur County have dropped, allowing the county to remain at Moderate Risk when risk level assignments are made this Friday.

During the two-week period from March 7-20, there were 19 reported cases of COVID-19, equal to a case rate (number of cases per 100,000 people) of 59.3. Moderate Risk includes case rates from 50 to <100. The county’s test positivity rate during the same period was 1.1%, the lowest it has been since the statewide risk level system went into effect last December. A weekly Risk Level Metrics report is released by the Oregon Health Authority every Monday.

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said the reduction in cases is largely due to the increasing number of people who are vaccinated. A vaccine report shared by the OHA this week shows that as of March 17, a total of 9,014 vaccines have been administered by Malheur County healthcare providers and pharmacies since local vaccine deliveries began on Dec. 14. While allocation to county vaccine providers remains inconsistent from week to week, more vaccine is consistently available to a growing number of providers, giving people in Malheur County a variety of options for vaccination.

All three of the vaccines currently approved for emergency use by the FDA – Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson – are available locally, as are drive-up and office-visit appointments. MCHD continues to offer first come, first served vaccine clinics every Thursday beginning at 1 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center.

“With the opening of vaccine eligibility this week for people in Phase 1B, Group 6, we expect to see Malheur County’s case count continue to decline if more people are protected by the vaccine quickly. We are all anxious to get out and enjoy the nicer weather and the outdoor activities that come with it, and we can do that more safely if the majority of our population gets vaccinated as they become eligible,” Poe said.

Each of the three available vaccines has been proven safe and effective against severe illness due to COVID-19. For more information, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine website.

Malheur County gets green light from state to move on to next eligibility group

Malheur County has been given the go-ahead from the Governor’s Office to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility a week ahead of time to Phase 1b Group 6, which includes people age 45-64 with one or more health conditions, people who work in agriculture and food processing, people experiencing unstable housing, and others. The expanded eligibility will help vaccine providers in the county, including the Malheur County Health Department, use the increasing supply of vaccine that is available.

“We could have vaccinated a lot more people than we did last Thursday,” MCHD Director Sarah Poe said. “We administered 121 of the 300 doses we had available. Opening up eligibility will enable us to use a lot more of the vaccine we have coming into the county.”

Approval to expand eligibility came by way of email on Friday evening, just hours after a letter was submitted to the Governor’s Office requesting eligibility for Groups 6 and 7 of the state’s eligibility timeline.

“We have plans to continue weekly vaccine clinics, to support additional healthcare providers and pharmacies, and to start taking vaccine to locations where disproportionately affected populations live and work. This includes very rural communities, onion sheds, and organizations that serve people experiencing houselessness. This takes a great effort logistically, especially to not waste doses when vials are opened. To encourage more vaccine-hesitant and vulnerable people to be vaccinated, we believe we will be more effective if we can open the groups that include people over 16 with an underlying health condition and those in multi-generational housing. We have not been able to use all the vaccine we have available with the eligibility as it is,” the letter stated.

All groups that have become eligible so far remain eligible as new groups are added. It is important that people understand this, Poe said, because data released today by the state shows that Malheur County is behind the state average in vaccinating seniors. As of March 15, the state average for people age 65 and over who have had at least one vaccine dose is 53.69%. In Malheur County, it’s 43.72%. “That’s concerning because Malheur County is one of the easiest places in the state to get a vaccine, and older adults are at highest risk of severe disease,” she said.

All Oregonians age 16 and over will be eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

In additional to MCHD, the following health care providers and pharmacies currently offer COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Valley Family Health Care:
    • Vale, 541-473-2101
    • Ontario, 541-889-2340
    • Nyssa, 541-372-5738
    • TVWC, 541-881-2800
    • TVPC, 541-889-2668
  • Stark Medical, Ontario, 541-889-2244
  • Bi-Mart, Ontario, 541-889-2141
  • Walmart, Ontario, 541-889-6040
  • Malheur Drug, Vale, 541-473-3333
  • Malheur Memorial Health, Nyssa, 541-372-2211
  • Medicap Pharmacy, Nyssa, 541-372-2222

Agricultural workers become eligible for vaccine on Monday

Governor Kate Brown announced during a press conference today that the state’s COVID-19 vaccine timeline has been accelerated to meet the federal promise of eligibility for all adults by May 1. Additionally, counties with agricultural workers have been given the flexibility to vaccinate that population beginning March 22.

“This is great news for Malheur County, whose economy relies heavily on the health and well-being of these valued and essential workers,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said. “We are ready to begin vaccinating this population and have been working with food processors and onion sheds to make plans for scheduling vaccines at worksites throughout the county.”

Speeding up the eligibility timeline in Malheur County was one of three COVID-19-related requests the county made in a letter submitted to the governor’s office today. Signed by Poe and Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce, the letter asks the state to:

  • Move Malheur County to a “medium sized” county for the purpose of risk assessment
  • Change the county risk metrics to match the recently updated “Ready Schools Safe Learners” guidance
  • Allow Malheur County to immediately open vaccination eligibility to Phase 1B, Groups 6 and 7

“We have plans to continue weekly vaccine clinics, to support additional healthcare providers and pharmacies, and to start taking vaccine to locations where disproportionately affected populations live and work. This includes very rural communities, onion sheds, and organizations that serve people experiencing houselessness. This takes a great effort logistically, especially to not waste doses when vials are opened,” the letter states.

The letter also requests that the roughly 3,000 adults in custody at Snake River Correctional Institution be removed from Malheur County’s population count, which would change the metrics the state uses to determine the county’s risk level.

“We appreciate the fact that your office removes Adults in Custody (AIC) residing at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI) when determining the case rates for our county. We request that the nearly 3,000 AIC also be removed from the population number for consistency and recognition that they are not contributing to community spread. Removing 2,900 AIC from the approximate 32,000 population of Malheur County would take us out of the large county group. … The metrics seem to be divided by county size to be fair and in this unique situation, Malheur is unfairly considered a large county without the same risks and population outside of SRCI.”

The letter also points out that until recently, school and county metrics mirrored each other. Now, school-setting guidance in the updated “Ready Schools Safe Learners” document is less restrictive than general population guidance, even though school settings are less protected.

“Risk categories that respond to the falling risk statewide, especially given increased protection with immunization, makes the most sense. Our schools are the setting that will have some of the least protection from immunization, considering children are not yet eligible,” the letter states.

“We appreciate all the hard work at the state level and we’re hopeful that Gov. Brown will take our requests into consideration. Our priority continues to be the health of our community, which includes not just physical health but social, emotional, and financial health as well. The issues addressed in today’s letter have an impact on all of those,” Poe said.

Other COVID-19 updates from today’s press conference include:

  • Beginning on March 22, counties that attest to having largely completed vaccinations of seniors can start offering vaccine to adults age 45+ who have underlying health conditions.
  • No later than April 19, vaccine eligibility opens to frontline workers and people of all ages with underlying health conditions.
  • On May 1, vaccine eligibility opens to all Oregonians age 16+.
  • All Oregonians will have had the opportunity for at least one dose of vaccine by the end of May.
  • To date, 938,900 Oregonians have received at least one vaccine dose, just less than 1 out of every 3 adults.
  • “We need somewhere between 7 or 8 out of 10 Oregonians to get vaccinated in order to achieve critical mass and shut down the virus so it can’t spread and put more lives and livelihoods at risk,” Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said.

Video Links
• A recording of today’s live-streamed press conference is available here. Please note the video starts at the 31:30 mark.
• A recording of a Spanish language translation is available on OHA’s Facebook page here. Please note the video starts at the 1:03 mark.

Warning Week: Malheur County case rate solidly in Moderate Risk range

Malheur County’s case rate over the two-week period from Feb. 28 through March 13 gives the county solid footing in the Moderate Risk level of the state’s four-tier system, explained here, that is designed to help communities reduce the spread of COVID-19. This week is a Warning Week during which no Risk Level assignments are scheduled to occur.

Based on population, Malheur County’s risk level is determined by two indicators: case rate (number of cases per 100,000 people) and test positivity rate. This week’s Risk Level Metrics report shows that there were 22 cases of COVID-19 reported, equal to a case rate of 68.7. Moderate Risk range is a case rate of 50 to <100. The county’s test positivity rate was 1.5%, well within the Lower Risk range.

“We believe the reduction in cases is largely due to the increasing number of people who are vaccinated. We are heartened that we have not lost another life to COVID-19 in more than a month and hope that with more and more people protected by vaccination, we will be able to save more lives and move our county to the Lower Risk level soon,” Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said.

County Risk Levels are updated every two weeks. During a Movement Week next Tuesday, March 23, updated data will be published and county risk levels will be assigned. Any resulting changes to risk levels will take effect on Friday, March 26, and remain in effect for the next two weeks.