Gov. Kate Brown announces Oregonians age 65+ and teachers can get vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Jan. 23 - OregonLive
Jan 13, 2021 2 mins, 16 secs
Kate Brown announced Tuesday that she’ll allow all Oregonians 65 and older to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Jan.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who earlier in the day said all states should start vaccinating Americans who are 65 or older and people with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19.

“While this is an unexpected change in course from the federal government, receiving more vaccines is welcome news for states — and Oregon is ready to devote all resources necessary to ramp up distribution with our health care partners,” Brown said in a statement Tuesday evening announcing the eligibility change.

Plans are already underway, she added, “to ensure Oregon seniors and educators have ready access to a vaccine.” Brown doesn’t plan to prioritize Oregonians with underlying conditions at this time.

The abrupt shift from Brown follows other states that already had outlined plans to inoculate seniors, and it comes without any clear expectation about precisely how many more vaccine doses Oregon will receive from the federal government in coming weeks.

A spokesman for Brown said he didn’t know how many additional doses would arrive in Oregon, which previously expected just over 1.1 million from December through February, setting up the potential for widespread demand but inadequate vaccine volume.

Brown and officials for the Oregon Health Authority as recently as Friday resisted the idea of allowing seniors to be vaccinated before late next month, saying teachers and school staff would be prioritized next, with other recommendations to be made by an advisory committee.

“If you are an Oregonian who is newly eligible for vaccination, I am asking for your patience,” Brown said.

For now, Brown doesn’t plan to heed the federal guidance and prioritize Oregonians with underlying conditions, a population estimated at 1.6 million.

“But we will be working with stakeholders to develop outreach and distribution plans so that we will be ready to begin vaccinating Oregonians with underlying health conditions as more vaccines become available.”.

Patrick Allen, the Oregon Health Authority director, has said at 12,000 daily shots a day it would take well into 2022 to inoculate 70% of the state’s population -- about 3 million people -- with the two-dose regimen of the vaccines.

The Oregon Education Association, the union representing 44,000 educators, wasn’t pushing the governor to prioritize educators before seniors, said union president John Larson.

Tuesday’s news that Brown will soon open up vaccinations to seniors was celebrated with cheers by many older Oregonians.

He said advice offered by the governor and Oregon Health Authority leaders as recently as last week -- that seniors hang tight and stay home for an undetermined amount of time until their turns arrived -- didn’t seem practical.

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