SALEM — People with serious medical conditions and frontline workers are among those who will become eligible earlier for the COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Kat Brown said Friday.
“This doesn’t mean that every Oregonian will be able to get a shot right away,” Brown said.
As late as January, state officials were forecasting that it would take into autumn or beyond to offer vaccination to the 3.2 million eligible adults. Brown says the timeline is now much shorter.
“We expect to have enough doses for every Oregonian who wants a vaccine to have the opportunity for at least a first dose by the end of May,” Brown said during the news conference.
Brown ordered a compression of the state’s priority list after President Joe Biden directed states to remove all limits on vaccine eligibility by May 1 — two months earlier than Oregon had planned.
Under the revised timeline announced Friday, people age 45 and older with serious medical conditions that could lead to severe illness or death if they were infected by COVID-19 can get vaccinated beginning Monday. The group had been scheduled to become eligible March 29.
Counties must send a written statement to OHA attesting they have “largely” vaccinated residents over 65 and can handle moving on to the next group. OHA Director Pat Allen said there is no single state metric for meeting the standard. Counties who submit the statements do not need to wait for OHA response or approval.
With 58 percent of those 65 and over now vaccinated, Allen said many counties will likely start inoculating the new group. Allen singled out Deschutes County as one that had inoculated a high percentage of seniors. In other counties, the demand from seniors could be less than expected and there is vaccine available for the next group.
Vaccine providers have been told to use an honor system for determining who should get the shots. OHA has published a list of medical conditions that meet the standard. Those seeking the vaccination will not be asked to provide medical records or a doctor’s note. They will be asked to attest that they meet the guidelines.
Migrant and seasonal farmworkers in counties where they are currently already working can also be vaccinated beginning Monday. OHA said some of the areas that would meet the standard included Umatilla, Morrow and Malheur counties.
The remainder of the original March 29 group will be eligible as planned. This includes people who are pregnant and age 16 or older, all adults 45-64 with underlying health conditions in all counties, all migrant and seasonal farm workers, seafood and agricultural workers, food processing workers, people living in low-income senior housing, senior congregate and independent living situations, homeless people, those displaced by wildfire and wildland firefighters.
All other Oregonians will now become eligible on May 1.
There is no vaccine currently approved for children, though Moderna is developing one it hopes to have available by summer.
In a move advocated by many school districts in Oregon, the required amount of social distancing space between younger students could be cut in half in the near future.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s public health officer, said a new Centers for Disease Control report indicated that 3 feet is sufficient to suppress infection spread among children in lower grades.
For middle schools, Sidelinger said the 3-foot minimum appears to be possible in counties where there are 100 infections or less per 100,000 people. However, the CDC continues to recommend 6 feet of separation for students in high schools.
Allen said that as of Friday, there have been 938,900 people who have received at least one shot of vaccine since it first became available in December. The count of those fully vaccinated with either two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is up to 520,113. With 12 percent of its population vaccinated, Allen said Oregon is at about the national average.
• Counties that attest to largely completing the vaccination of residents 65 and older may begin vaccinating the next eligible groups.
• Vaccinations may also begin for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in counties where they are currently already working.
• All adults 45-64 with underlying health conditions.
• Migrant and seasonal farm workers.
• Seafood and agricultural workers.
• Food processing workers.
• People living in low-income senior housing, senior congregate and independent living.
• Individuals experiencing homelessness.
• People currently displaced by wildfires.
• Wildland firefighters, and
• Pregnant people 16 and older.
• Frontline workers as defined by the CDC.
• Multigenerational household members.
• Adults 16-44 with underlying health conditions.
• All Oregonians 16 and older.