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Our phones have been ringing off the hook this week as so many of you have questions about when and how you will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

I'm inspired that Central Oregonians are ready and willing to be vaccinated in the hopes of ending this terrible pandemic. My ask of you today is to stay calm and patient. We are actively working on a plan to ensure every Central Oregonian who wants the vaccine will have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated. 

Information related to the supply of vaccine has shifted considerably throughout the week. The situation continues to be dynamic and evolving, but I want to share what we know as of today.

Before I do that, though, I want to reiterate to you that the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe is to continue diligently doing the things we've been asking you to do for almost a year:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are not feeling well 
  • If you must go out, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people who aren't in your household bubble

With record COVID-19 case numbers, new strains of the virus spreading, cold weather that encourages indoor gatherings and uncertainty around the vaccines, it remains vitally important that you do everything you can to protect yourself.

Vaccinations in Central Oregon

Our team is working tirelessly alongside our local public health partners to stand up large-scale vaccination events in the coming weeks. But these events will be dependent on the availability of vaccine that we receive from the state.

As of today, St. Charles has vaccinated more than 5,000 people who fall into the Phase 1a group under the state’s current guidance. This includes frontline health care workers, EMS providers, law enforcement officers, long-term care facility residents and staff and some educators who work directly with children with special needs. We are making good progress, but we know we have a long way to go.

Our goal is to get the COVID-19 vaccine into as many arms as we can – as quickly and safely as possible. Quite honestly, our hospitals continue to be full. Our caregivers are exhausted from fighting this fight every day. Widespread vaccinations are critical to setting us on a path to a more normal future.

Starting next week, we will move our remaining Phase 1a vaccinations to the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, which will help prepare us for future large-scale vaccination events. We will provide an update on our large-scale vaccination effort – including who is eligible and how to schedule an appointment – as soon as we know we have the available vaccine. 

Here is the latest on vaccine eligibility from the state of Oregon: 

  • Vaccination of the 1a group—including health care providers, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staff and those with intellectual disabilities—continues. It is the only group eligible for vaccination at this time. If you fall into this group, please visit our registration page and, if you meet the criteria, we will contact you to schedule an appointment.
  • Starting the week of Jan. 25 (and in some counties, sooner), childcare providers, early learning and K-12 educators and staff will be eligible for vaccination
  • Starting the week of Feb. 8, vaccinations will open to individuals 80 years and older
  • Following the 80 and older group, seniors in three age bands will also become eligible in the following order (the dates to be announced):
    • Seniors 75 and older
    • Seniors 70 and older
    • Seniors 65 and older

Our partners in Jefferson and Crook counties are also working hard to vaccinate their Phase 1a group members. They too hope to offer large-scale vaccination events once they have a reliable supply of vaccine. For more information we encourage you to visit their websites at www.JeffCo.net/PublicHealth or www.co.crook.or.us/health

For those of you who may be feeling hesitant to receive the vaccine, I encourage you to watch this informative Doc Talks presentation by Dr. Cynthia Maree, our infectious disease medical director. The evidence shows overwhelmingly that the vaccines are safe and effective.

Please be patient with us as we continue to work on our vaccination roll-out and know that we will proactively share information when it is available. We encourage those of you with questions to call the COVID-19 hotline at 541-699-5109, which is staffed Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please do not call our clinics and hospitals with vaccine questions. Allow our staff to focus on the important work of taking care of our current patients. 

You can be confident that we will be successful in vaccinating every resident in Central Oregon who wants to be vaccinated. We got this!

Sincerely,
Joe

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