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Oregon Finally Receives 1st Full COVID-19 Vaccine Shipment

A vial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that was used at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, U.K., on Tuesday.
Liam McBurney
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A vial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that was used at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, U.K., on Tuesday.

A long-awaited shipment of 35,100 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Oregon hospitals has been completed, the state announced Friday.

Public confirmation from the Oregon Health Authority came after days of waiting for new supplies to follow Oregon’s previous shipment of 4,875 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech. The state began vaccinating hospital workers on Wednesday, putting it among the last to administer the vaccination. Friday’s shipment makes Oregon one of the last states to have its first full order completed.

As of Thursday, 685 healthcare workers in Oregon had been vaccinated, mostly in the Portland area. This new shipment will go to hospital workers and doctors in Oregon locations that had been waiting for the vaccine to arrive.

The week’s final shipment of 19,500 doses went to 16 hospitals across Oregon, from the Portland metro area to Willamette Valley facilities in Salem, Eugene, Corvallis and Albany and to hospitals in Southern Oregon and Bend. The OHA said an additional 10,725 vaccine doses had been sent to Walgreens and CVS pharmacies for vaccinations at skilled nursing facilities, beginning next week.

The federal government notified Oregon authorities Thursday that the second shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been cut by 40%, down to 25,350. Oregon was initially told to expect over 40,000 doses in next week’s shipment. Similar reductions were discovered in states across the country.

”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,” wrote Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in a tweet, “We need accurate information to make sure Oregonians are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations as quickly as possible.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar blamed the delayed and reduced shipments on problems with Pfizer’s manufacturing process.

Pfizer denied any manufacturing problems, saying in a statement: “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

No Thanksgiving bump, a flattening curve heading into Christmas and New Year's

It looks like Oregonians followed directions: the feared post-Thanksgiving case-bump never emerged.

In fact, Oregon’s curve appears to be flattening. The Oregon Health Authority’s weekly report released Wednesday says new hospitalizations and new cases were down 11% for the week of Dec. 7-13.

Deaths and new hospitalizations were down as well, but just a bit. With many patients still in intensive care units, that trend could turn around. On Tuesday, Oregon reported 54 deaths: a new record.

Hospitals filling up

Although the number of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 is down, patients with COVID-19 can be in the hospital for weeks, or even months. That means the number of people hospitalized continues to rise. Earlier this week, the health care region that includes Bend ran out of ICU beds.

Patients were moved and it was resolved the next day. Still, moments like that could become increasingly common as more patients become ill. While regions like the Willamette Valley may have dozens of beds to spare, it’s much easier for smaller eastern and central Oregon regions to get overwhelmed.

As of Thursday, there were 587 people in Oregon hospitalized with COVID-19, 120 of whom were in an ICU. There are 142 adult ICU beds and 585 adult non-ICU beds left in the state.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

OPB Staff