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Health and Medicine

Oregon takes steps to deal with looming omicron surge

Clackamas Community College nursing student Nina Tan draws up doses at a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinic held at Clackamas Town Center, Nov. 10, 2021, in Happy Valley, Ore. On Dec. 17, 2021, Oregon's governor and leading state officials issued a plea to residents to get vaccinated or seek boosters ahead of an expected surge in infections.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
/
OPB
Clackamas Community College nursing student Nina Tan draws up doses at a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinic held at Clackamas Town Center, Nov. 10, 2021, in Happy Valley, Ore. On Dec. 17, 2021, Oregon's governor and leading state officials issued a plea to residents to get vaccinated or seek boosters ahead of an expected surge in infections.

To deal with the looming omicron surge, Oregon takes several steps, including the addition of three new high-volume vaccination and booster sites to the six currently operating.

It’s only been five days since Oregonians first learned the omicron variant could double the hospitalization rate of delta.

At the time, Gov. Kate Brown said the state had about three weeks to prepare, as she and state health officials laid out a five-part plan to blunt the variant’s effect on the state. So how is the Oregon Health Authority doing on that?

One of the first steps the OHA is taking is to open three new high-volume vaccination and booster sites.

“We’re continuing to operate six high volume sites, that can do about 1,000 doses a day,” said Doctor Kristen Dillon, the senior advisor of Oregon’s COVID response. “We’re looking at three more and the first site for those has been identified in Roseburg.”

The locations of the two other large-volume sites have yet to be decided. But currently operating sites include: the Deschutes County Fairgrounds; the Jackson County Expo Center; the PeaceHealth Riverbend Annex at 123 International Way in Springfield; the Oregon Health Authority Warehouse at 3455 Aumsville Hwy SE, in Salem; the former Kmart building at 440 NW Burnside Rd. in Gresham: and at Tektronix at 14200 SW Karl Braun Drive, Building 58, in Beaverton.

The state has also sequestered 250,000 doses of vaccine from the federal government this week in anticipation of an omicron surge. And more supplies are on their way.

Vaccine supply is not expected to be a problem this surge. Instead, there’s a shortage of staff to administer those vaccines. Dillon said they’ve identified more than a dozen clinics and public health departments that can increase capacity with extra staff. So they’re sending staff.

But she stressed, people need to come in.

“I’m not seeing as much urgency from the public to get their boosters as I think would be optimal,” Dillon said.

The state is also setting up a large site in Portland where vulnerable people can get more complex monoclonal antibody treatments and the recently authorized anti-viral pill from Pfizer.

“It makes sense to set up a centralized sort of one-stop shop that can provide these treatments to the people that are really going to benefit from them,” Dillon said.

But the location and possible provider of this new site have not yet been identified, and supplies of the new Pfizer pill are expected to be limited.

The state has also set up a call center make sure people in long-term care get boosters. It should be set up by the end of the week,

“We have five mobile teams that are scheduling to go to any facilities that still need to have boosters provided on site,” said Dillon.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.