A day after Governor Kate Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to achieve the benchmark of 12,000 COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Oregon per day by the end of the next two weeks, health officials detailed plans of how they plan to meet that goal.
Gov. Brown said, Jan. 4, the 12,000 doses a day goal will “put (Oregon) on track to deploy every vaccine we have in our hands.”
“This is an all-hands-on-deck effort, and I have directed OHA to partner as widely as possible to ensure we are using all available resources to ramp up Oregon's vaccinations rapidly,” Gov. Brown said.
OHA Director Pat Allen spoke with members of the media Jan. 5 along with OHA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dana Hargunani. Allen said Oregon currently ranks 36th in the United States in vaccine distribution with 1.2 percent of the population receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“These COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and they are the most reliable tool we have to stop the spread of this virus,” Dr. Hargunani said.
Allen said getting vaccinations done as quickly as possible is a top priority for OHA because Oregon is considered vulnerable to the virus as far fewer people have contracted it compared to other states in the U.S.
Last week, Oregon received 34,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine last week and over 24,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Over 51,000 doses have been administered, which has accounted for about 1 in 4 doses administered that Oregon received.
Additionally, 326 people in Oregon have had both doses and are considered fully immune.
With OHA’s five step plan, Allen believes Oregon is on pace to reach the 12,000 doses administered per day by next week.
Dr. Hargunani detailed the plan that includes expanding partnerships and administration sites. The five steps include:
Speeding Phase 1a (administering vaccines to health care workers and long-term care facilities) by staging.
Expanding federal pharmacy partnerships to reach more nursing home residents and staff members.
Giving Phase 1a workers the ability to get vaccinated at a local pharmacy.
Leveraging all Public Health agencies to help with administering vaccines.
Supporting innovated partnerships.
Dr. Hargunani said the COVID-19 has proven to be a little more difficult to distribute compared to the flu shot. Some issues OHA has had to overcome includes: Adapting to distribution during a pandemic, which provides challenges like finding a controlled, safe space for administration; the Pfizer vaccine requires ultra cold storage. OHA is currently working to get more of this storing units in more hospitals; and Oregon does not have enough doses for everyone right now, which has caused the need to prioritize who gets access to it first.
To overcome some of these challenges OHA is hoping to rely on partnerships with local agencies. One of these new partnerships was announced by Joe Ness, chief operations officer of OHSU Healthcare.
Ness said OHSU is currently OHSU administering about 1,000 doses of the vaccine per day and are expecting to expand next week thanks to a partnership with SEIU 503, Oregon’s Public Services and Care Provider Union. The partnership will focuses on getting vaccines to long term care facilities.
“We are a community of healers and we care deeply about our most vulnerable populations,” Ness said.
Melissa Unger, board member of SEIU 503, stressed the importance of getting vaccine doses to long-term care facilities because they have been susceptible to the virus and care facility workers are also often overlooked. Unger said they are “excited to collaborate to expand vaccine distribution to more frontline workers.”
Allen closed out OHA’s update by announcing 1,059 new cases for Jan. 5 and 44 new COVID-19 related deaths. Allen also emphasized that OHA and other state agencies are working day and night to get the vaccine out to Oregonians.
“As we roll out the vaccine, all of us need to keep doing our part... wash your hands, keep you physical distance and stay home if you are sick,” Allen said.