LINCOLN COUNTY — Last Wednesday, Dec. 30, Lincoln County Public Health and Pacific West Ambulance each received shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, allowing for the first local administration outside of hospitals, memory care and skilled nursing facilities.
Samaritan Health Services began administering Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to hospital employees Dec. 21. It had given a first dose to 695 people at its Newport and Lincoln City hospitals as of Monday and expects to complete all first doses by the end of this week, with second doses to begin Jan. 11. Local skilled nursing facilities also began vaccinating the third week of December.
The doses received Dec. 30 — 100 to the health department and 400 to PacWest — will be administered to emergency medical personnel, first responders and law enforcement personnel. The ambulance company and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office began administering those doses Dec. 31, and they’d vaccinated 70 personnel by the end of the weekend.
Lincoln County Public Health Deputy Director Florence Pourtal told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on Monday that agencies participating in this round of vaccinations had surveyed personnel and found that 292 employees wanted the vaccine out of the 419 to whom it was offered, an acceptance rate of about 69 percent.
Pourtal detailed the groups next in line for the vaccine. Those currently receiving it fall within group one of phase 1a, she said — hospitals workers, skilled nursing and memory care, EMS and other first responders. Group two, the next to be eligible, includes other long-term care facilities and congregate care sites, hospice, mobile crisis care, secured transport and correctional workers. The third group will be those in high-risk outpatient settings, in-home care and non-emergency transport.
Group four could end up including all school employees — the health department said that it is aware this possibility is under consideration — and it already includes remaining outpatient health care settings, public health workers, early learning sites and death care workers.
Pourtal said she is hopeful they will have a first dose to everyone in group one by the end of the month — she said a timeline of a few months would be optimistic for getting through all of phase 1a. After that comes 1b and then 1c — older populations, essential workers, people with high-risk conditions — followed by phase 2, the general public. As the deputy health director noted, challenges of supply and logistics during the early vaccine roll out keep phase two an unpredictably distant prospect.
The Oregonian reported Sunday that Oregon was in the bottom 10 of U.S. states in its vaccination pace. Health authority data current as of 12:01 a.m. Monday shows 51,255 people vaccinated. Oregon has received just less than 200,000 doses, meaning three-quarters are still in storage.
In response to that reporting, Gov. Kate Brown issued a statement Monday. “By percentage of our population, Oregon has administered about the same number of vaccinations as other states, and distribution will continue to ramp up quickly,” Brown said. “But Oregon, like most of the country, is not moving fast enough.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.8 million doses have been administered nationwide out of more than 17 million distributed to states, territories and federal agencies.
Brown said she’d directed the health authority to meet a daily 12,000-vaccination benchmark by the end of the next two weeks. At that rate, it would take just under a year to vaccinate all Oregonians.