On the heels of learning that Oregon will not be receiving the shipment of vaccines from the federal reserve it had expected, state plans to vaccinate school staff and seniors ages 65 and older have changed.
Instead of opening vaccination eligibility to those groups Jan. 23, school staff will be eligible for vaccinations starting Jan. 25 and only seniors over age 80 on Feb. 8.
On Tuesday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azal announced the full reserve of vaccines would be released to states and encouraged state leaders to expand vaccine eligibility. Gov. Kate Brown and other state officials learned last night that Oregon and other states will not receive increased shipments of vaccine, "because there is no federal reserve of doses," she said.
In a press conference today, Brown said the discovery that Oregon would not be receiving the expected shipment of vaccine doses from the federal government was shocking and called it "deception on a national scale."
“I am shocked and appalled that the federal government would set an expectation with the American people on which they knew they could not deliver — with such grave consequences,” Brown said. "While the Trump Administration pulled the rug out from under us like a cruel joke, let me assure you that Oregon's priorities, my priorities, have not changed."
Instead of opening vaccination eligibility up to all residents over the age of 65, the eligibility criteria for seniors will be divided into four waves. The first wave will open up to seniors ages 80 and older starting Feb. 8.; the second wave opens up to people over 75; the third to people over 70; and the fourth phase to people over 65.
Specific dates on when the second, third and fourth phases may begin was not specified.
Part of the reasoning behind prioritizing teachers and school staff before seniors is due to the size of the two groups and the ongoing push by Brown to resume in-person classes.
"I made the decision to prioritize our educator personnel because I am absolutely committed to getting our children, our students, back into the classroom as quickly as possible," Brown said.
Pat Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, estimated there are approximately 100,000 people in Oregon who work in school settings, and an estimated 800,000 people in the state age 65 or older.
"While we want to vaccinate seniors as soon as we can, our ability to immunize this vulnerable population depends on getting enough doses from the federal government," Allen said. "We must have the supplies we've been promised."
Brown said vaccinating school staff is expected to take around two weeks, and Allen said original plans estimated it would take around 12 weeks to vaccinate seniors ages 65 and older with the expected vaccine shipment from the federal government.
While it seems no official dosage numbers were promised by the federal government, Allen said the state was expecting between 135,000-225,000 additional doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Approximately 2.8% of the state has been vaccinated thus far, Allen said. To reach community immunity, between 70% to 80% of the state needs to be vaccinated.