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Oregon’s COVID-19 Vaccination Doses Down Thousands From Initial Projections

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

The Oregon Heath Authority acknowledges it won't be able to vaccinate as many front-line workers and long-term care residents this month as previously thought.

Oregon is receiving thousands of fewer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this month from the federal government than originally indicated, public health officials acknowledged on Thursday.

Oregon received its first shipment this week and state leaders expect two more in the coming weeks from Pfizer-BioNTech. On Thursday, the Oregon Health Authority learned that next week’s shipment will total 25,350, down from the 40,950 it had previously been told to expect, said Dr. Paul Cieslak a public health physician with the OHA.

“These things are changing frequently, and we just got news about this from the federal government today,” he said during aFacebook Live event. “They are subject to change. They’re not written in stone.”

Based on the latest projections, the state now expects to receive enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to administer the first injections to 100,000 front-line health care workers and vulnerable populations in long-term care facilities. That’s down from expectations in early December when officials planned to have enough doses to have administered the first-round shots to 147,000 people by late this month, with an additional 120,000 doses coming at the end of the month to provide the second doses needed to maximize the vaccination’s effectiveness.

An FDA panel gave its endorsement to the Moderna vaccine on Thursday, and full FDA emergency approval is expected shortly. Oregon’s revised vaccine dose estimates include shipments of the Moderna vaccine.

But as of Thursday, Oregon has received no estimates for shipments beyond December, said Rachael Banks, OHA’s Public Health Division director.

“We don’t have all the info from the federal government about when we’ll be getting the additional vaccines and how much,” Banks said during the same Facebook Live event.

Oregon Gov. Kate Browntweeted about the reduced shipments, saying Oregon, like Washington and other states, was informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that its Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine allocation for next week has been cut by 40%.

“This was a federal decision, and I am seeking answers from the CDC about the reliability of the data we are receiving from week-to-week as Oregon builds our vaccine distribution plan,” she tweeted.

Neither of the two OHA officials indicated concern that Oregon wouldn’t ultimately be able to execute its vaccine strategy: getting front-line medical workers and most vulnerable populations vaccinated, followed by critical workers and others, then eventually making doses available to all Oregonians so that community immunity can be established.

“We expect the supply to increase in the next several months,” Cieslak said.

The state’s first vaccinations were administered on Wednesday after this week’s shipments of 4,875 doses went to four hospital systems: Kaiser-Permanente, Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University in the Portland/Willamette Valley region and St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, which serves much of Eastern Oregon.

Banks said the arrival of vaccines represent a “light at the end of the tunnel” but repeated the message state leaders have been driving for weeks: Oregonians need to be confident in the 94% to 95% effectiveness rate for the first two vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, as well as patient as doses are manufactured and shipped to the state. In the meantime, people must continue to practice social distancing, wear masks in public and avoid indoor gatherings outside of their immediate household.

“It’s going to be a long tunnel, and it might be one day at a time, and there could be potholes in there,” Banks said.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting