By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The number of COVID vaccines administered in Deschutes County has decreased dramatically in recent days, delaying the goal of “herd immunity.”
But when the supply increases, local health officials say they’re ready to move vaccinations forward at a dramatic rate.
“We can push, we believe, between 25,000 and 30,000 doses per week using our mass vaccination model,” said Dr. George Conway, Deschutes County Health Service Director. “We stand ready to move very quickly as soon as the supply chain improves.”
A number of factors are impeding the availability of the vaccine locally.
About 18,000 COVID vaccines have been administered in Deschutes County since late December.
The peak of activity was in late January when about 3,000 doses per day were injected into arms of seniors, health care workers and educators, but the pace has slowed considerably.
Local health officials blame it on limited supplies of vaccine, distribution difficulties due to harsh winter weather, and Oregon Health Authority decisions rerouting vaccines to other counties to help them catch up on their vaccination rates.
“We’ve had limited supply chain the last few weeks, but we had very good momentum which is still carrying on,” Conway said. “We have a relatively high vaccination rate within this state.”
Deschutes County’s mass vaccination clinic is plugging along at the fairgrounds despite the vaccine shortage.
Thursday, about 2,100 first and second doses were administered to folks in the current window of eligibility.
“It’s so well organized. Everyone is so nice and friendly. It’s just great,” Jane Haeffele, Bend.
Starting Monday, vaccine eligibility extends down to people 70 and older; and then on March 1 down to people 65 years of age.
Health officials caution it could take up to two months to vaccinate this large group of “young elders” at current supply levels.
Conway says the FDA’s pending approval of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine, which is a one-dose treatment, could really speed up vaccination rates.
But for the lucky ones who have already received their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the pace seems quick enough.
“It could not believe the first time I bought my mother here, everybody was so friendly, helpful, and just went out of their way to make us feel comfortable,” said Gail Oakes.
The Biden administration says it will increase the number of vaccine doses headed to the state from 11 million last week to 13.5 million starting next week.
And they will double the supply of weekly doses to pharmacies, up to 2 million.