State pushes up next phase of vaccine eligibility to April 19

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Ryan Pfeil, Ashland Daily Tidings, Ore.
·3 min read
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Apr. 6—All Oregonians 16 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 19, nearly two weeks sooner than the original May 1 date, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday.

"We are locked in a race between vaccine distribution and the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants," Brown said in a news release. "Today, Oregon will pass the threshold of 2 million vaccine doses administered. And yet, in communities across Oregon, COVID-19 is spreading at concerning rates. We must move as quickly as possible to get more shots in arms."

The idea of a "race" to get people vaccinated more quickly because of circulating variants has been echoed locally by Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County medical director. Multiple laboratories across Oregon are studying the mutations, some of which are more infectious.

"The underlying concern that the whole country has is that we do have rising variant (cases)," Shames said Monday.

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Brown also announced additional focus on equity for people of color and others who "have been disproportionately hard-hit by this disease."

"We must reach Oregonians where they are, including those who may not have easy access to health care or the ability to take time off from work," she said.

Brown's announcement comes one day after vaccine eligibility expanded to multigenerational households, frontline workers, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and age-eligible family members in the same household, and people age 16 to 44 with at least one underlying health condition.

"My office will work closely with the White House to ensure Oregon receives our fair share of federal vaccine supplies, so we can continue with a fast, fair, and equitable vaccine distribution process," Brown said.

Information on vaccine eligibility and how to sign up for one in Jackson County is online at jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/General/News-Information/covid-19-vaccine-1.

As of Monday, 771,752 Oregonians were considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 497,299 people had received one shot in a two-dose regimen, according to Oregon Health Authority data. That equated to 1,998,429 vaccine doses administered, OHA data showed.

Brown also announced the latest risk assessment for Oregon counties. Jackson County will stay at high risk. Josephine and Klamath counties both qualified to move into the extreme risk category under previous metrics but will stay at "high" because of a new statewide trigger that was not met the past two weeks: patients who have the illness occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day average over the past week, according to a news release.

"Counties that meet the criteria for extreme risk but for the statewide trigger will be assigned to high risk," the release said.

Jackson County Commissioners previously lobbied the governor and state public health officials to rethink how they measure risk. One of the recommendations from the commissioners was to consider hospitalization rates, not just COVID-19 case counts.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanpfeil. Reporter Vickie Aldous contributed to this report.