Oregonians with a high risk of contracting COVID-19 who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago are now able to receive booster shots, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday.
This news follows last week’s approval from the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, the regional group that guides the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) decisions on issues like immunizations. The booster is available for Oregonians who received the initial Pfizer COVID vaccines who are 65 and older, living in a long-term care facility, adults with underlying medical conditions, and those who are at a higher risk of COVID exposure due to their job, like healthcare workers, teachers, and grocery store workers. In short, anyone who was in Oregon’s 1A or 1B phases during the state’s initial vaccine rollout is now eligible for a Pfizer booster.
Oregonians do not need to provide any documents to prove their eligibility before receiving a booster shot.
On Tuesday, Brown urged Oregonians who are not yet eligible for a booster to be patient as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to study whether or not they will eventually be able to receive booster shots. The Pfizer booster was approved by the FDA and CDC last week. Both agencies are currently reviewing whether boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be approved and are expected to make a recommendation by November. Immunocompromised people have been approved for a third dose of the Moderna vaccine, which is different from a booster shot.
“For those who received the Pfizer vaccine, but are not yet eligible for a booster, please know that you are still well protected from COVID-19,” Brown said. “Boosters offer an extra layer of protection and that is really important for individuals at higher risk of exposure or illness, but you're still fully vaccinated with the two doses.”
The OHA estimates 300,000 Oregonians are currently eligible for a booster shot. According to OHA Public Health Director Rachel Banks, the state has enough vaccines to give all eligible people a booster, but is concerned with vaccine clinics’ ability to meet the renewed surge of demand that’s expected as people line up to get their booster shots. Banks urged people to speak with their health care provider to receive their booster and schedule an appointment when possible.
“OHA’s vaccine operations team continues to engage with vaccination sites and is looking at whether staff brought into Oregon to cover the surge in hospitalizations can be maintained to add workforce capacity to our fall vaccination efforts,” Banks said during the press conference.
If demand starts to exceed vaccine clinic capacity, OHA will also consider opening larger vaccination sites in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID.
As third doses of vaccines start to become available for people around the state, Oregon health officials are still begging unvaccinated people to get their initial shots. As of September 26, 75 percent of adult Oregonians—or 64 percent of the total population—are vaccinated.
“I want to echo the words of the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wolensky, who emphasized that the Pfizer booster, while important step in providing additional protection to the most vulnerable, is no replacement for continuing our work to help people who are unvaccinated get their first and second doses of the vaccine,” Banks said. “As she told reporters last week, ‘We will not boost our way out of this pandemic.’”
After a record breaking surge in COVID cases over the past couple months, officials report that new cases are slowly starting to decline. As of Monday, the state’s seven-day average of daily cases dropped to 1,646, down from its peak around 2,300 in mid-August. The OHA is also reporting a 10 percent drop in weekly COVID cases for the week ending on September 19—the third consecutive weekly decline in new COVID cases.
However, deputy state epidemiologist Tom Jeanne warned that Oregon’s progress in slowing the spread of the Delta variant is fragile.
“Our report shows that earlier this month, spread of the virus increased slightly,” Jeanne said. “That was the result of a slow but discernible increase in high risk behaviors, and a slacking adherence to the public health protocols that have proven to be effective. We cannot drop our guard and risk a resurgence that could overwhelm our healthcare system.”
Oregonians can visit getvaccinated.oregon.gov to find their nearest vaccine clinic.