Oregon vaccine timeline undeterred by winter storm, Gov. Brown says


Oregon's vaccine rollout is still on track to inoculate more seniors this month after losing days to last weekend’s winter storm, Gov. Kate Brown said on Friday.

Six days after some 300,000 Oregonians lost power in a storm that blanketed the state in ice and snow over Presidents Day weekend, 69,000 are still waiting to turn their lights back on, Portland General Electric announced Friday morning.

The extreme weather also left 67,000 COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna stuck in Memphis, Tennessee, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced Friday. It also canned 10,000 vaccination appointments in Portland and shut down clinics across the state during the three-day weekend.

OHA Director Patrick Allen said during a virtual Friday news conference with Brown that the state will be expanding eligibility for vaccinations for seniors and other groups as planned.

The CDC's COVID Tracker shows the state has about 155,000 vaccines on hand or enough to supply a host of second and first doses until more arrive, as state officials hope.

“We don't expect these problems will have a long-term impact on our vaccination schedule,” Allen said. “We’re getting more doses, but we still don’t have enough to vaccinate everyone on-demand.”

Allen added that the state's weekly vaccine shipments will go up by another 24,000 doses under changes by the Biden administration which is also sending vaccines straight to retail pharmacies and federally qualified health centers.

Oregon began vaccinating seniors ages 80 and up starting on February 8, two weeks after teachers became eligible for a shot in the arm.

Seniors ages 75 and up began lining up for their shots on Monday and the state will continue opening up eligibility for more senior age groups every week in five-year intervals.

The CDC reports About 5% of Oregon's 4.2 million people have received both doses slightly ahead of the national average of 4.9%. Another 17% of the state have received at least one dose.

Racial disparities still abound in Oregon's vaccine rollout, according to OHA data.

Patients identified as Latino or Hispanic now make up about 25% of the state's COVID-19 caseloads and make up just 5% of total vaccinations. By comparison, patients identified as white make up less than 50% of the state's caseload and about 75% of vaccinations.

As Allen said on Friday, the data is largely dependent patients choose to identify themselves, but the numbers speak to how much work the state has to do.

“I want to be perfectly clear, health inequities are the product of systemic racism, toxic stress, the targeted marketing of harmful products like tobacco and sugary beverages, and other factors. This is not about personal choice,” Allen said. “This is about the weight of larger social inequities that cut short lives and opportunity more often for people in communities of color.”

According to Allen, closing those disparities may rely on expanding vaccinations to more sites and more groups become eligible in Phase 1b like agricultural workers, food processors, and people with underlying conditions.

The spread of the pandemic continues to slow in Oregon where daily case counts fell below 1,000 in February for the first time since last fall.

Brown expressed optimism on Friday that more schools will continue reopening throughout the coming weeks

According to the governor, 19 Oregon counties have now met or exceeded the state's advisory school health metrics to return for on-site or hybrid in-person learning. About 20% of Oregon's K-12 population or 131,000 students are being taught in a classroom.

Brown cautioned Oregonians that the state is still not out of the woods as far as the pandemic is concerned.

“Oregonians continue to make smart choices, and the numbers speak for themselves,” Brown said. “We advise Oregonians to continue to follow safety measures and choose your activities wisely.”

The pandemic has sickened at least 151,713 people in Oregon to date and killed 2,149 others since last year, OHA data shows.

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