This week, I’ve got good news and bad news for you related to our ongoing COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The good news
Thanks to an incredible effort including St. Charles, Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties and the Oregon National Guard, more than 31,000 people in the tri-county area have already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That group includes health care workers, educators, first responders and more.
On Jan. 25, we opened up vaccinations to all Central Oregonians age 75 and older, which was ahead of the Oregon Health Authority’s sequencing schedule. We were able to do this because we had already vaccinated the vast majority of those who fall into the first phases of the plan. By doing so, we were able to make our way through a large allotment of vaccine – more than 10,000 doses last week.
The bad news
The state, which controls distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, is not sending us more first-doses this week. Instead, OHA is redirecting most doses to health systems in the Portland area that are continuing to vaccinate those in the first phases. We are unsure when new first doses will be allocated to us, but we expect this situation could continue for the next several weeks.
This is disappointing, but we feel fortunate that we have been able to get such a great start on vaccinating our most vulnerable residents. It’s also important to remember that we’re truly all battling this pandemic together, because the virus doesn’t differentiate between Central Oregon and the Willamette Valley. It doesn’t recognize county borders or turn around rather than brave snowy mountain passes. If COVID-19 is spreading in Portland, we will be affected. We need as many people as possible vaccinated, no matter where they live.
For those of you who have received your first dose, please know that we have been assured by the state that we will receive second doses of the vaccine. Our second dose clinics will continue as planned.
When we opened up vaccines to a larger population it caused some confusion and a whole flood of questions coming our way last week. In the first 24 hours, we received more than 2,500 voicemail messages on our COVID-19 vaccine scheduling hotline and it took a team of people several days to get through them. We apologize to those of you who had to wait for answers, but we are pleased to say that all those who called either received their vaccine or were contacted with more information thanks to an incredible team effort.
While I know navigating the system has been difficult for some, we have also been overwhelmed with positive messages from those who have received their vaccine. You can watch one of our 91-year-old patients in this video and hear first-hand about the experience.
Many thanks to those of you who took the time to write and share your feelings about receiving your first dose. It is heart-warming to hear these stories and know that all this very hard work is making a difference in our COVID-19 fight.