Oregonians 80 and older will be able to start signing up to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, February 8. But it's not going to be a smooth rollout.
"Next week, we will see some degree of chaos," said Pat Allen, director of Oregon Health Authority (OHA) during a Friday press conference. "Many older adults will inevitably voice frustration. Next week, you will not have to look hard to see people experiencing confusion. We will fall short."
That's because the number of Oregonians eligible for a vaccine will still outmatch the state's actual supply of vaccine doses. While not everyone in the 80+ age group will be actually able to receive a dose on Monday, Allen said, an expected surge in vaccine shipments to Oregon should guarantee access within "several weeks."
Allen said that the federal government will begin increasing the weekly number of first dose vaccines sent to Oregon from an average of 52,000 to 75,000. Yet, as both he and Gov. Kate Brown cautioned Friday, it still won't be enough to completely cover the growing population of Oregonians eligible for the vaccine in the next few months.
"We are certainly still managing a scare resource," said Brown.
Oregon's 80+ population is only the latest to become eligible to receive the vaccine, joining frontline health workers, people living in congregate settings, people with disabilities, teachers, and—as of last week—those being held in state prisons. Per the state's schedule, Oregonians 75 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting on Monday, February 15, those 70 and older on February 22, and the 65 and older population on March 1.
With that timeline in mind, Allen said that the state will be able to vaccinate 75 percent of all Oregonians eligible to receive the vaccine by early April. In total, that means vaccinating about 1.2 million Oregonians by April 4.
According to Allen, the state is a month ahead of schedule, despite the new infusion of 12,000 eligible inmates who will be eligible to receive the vaccine, due to a court-ordered decision made Wednesday. Brown said the state will offer an average of 5,000 vaccines to adults in custody at state prisons each week. The state also plans on expanding doses for adults and children being held in county jails, but did not provide an estimated number of weekly doses for that population on Friday.
Allen advised Oregonians 80+ who are interested in signing up to receive a vaccine to contact their county health authority. However, Multnomah County currently has no way of signing up to make a vaccine appointment on its COVID-19 website. Instead, the county advises those seeking a vaccine to visit OHA's website.
Friday's announcement coincides with a grim milestone: As of today, Oregon surpassed 2,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Brown solemnly acknowledged this number Friday, but paired it with several brighter statistics. According to Brown, Oregon currently holds the fourth lowest COVID-19 infection and mortality rate in the nation and is ranked 12th nationwide for getting its residents vaccinated, she said.
"I want to continue to say to Oregonians, thank you for being patient," Brown said, before ending the morning press conference. "This will take time."