By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Oregon’s teachers will leapfrog senior citizens in line for the COVID vaccine after state officials on Friday revealed an expected shipment from the federal stockpile isn’t coming – because there is no federal stockpile.
Gov. Kate Brown said early Friday she confirmed the “disturbing news” with General Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed.
“I am shocked and appalled that (the Trump administration) have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences,” she said in a statement. “This is a deception on a national scale. Oregon’s seniors, teachers, and all of us were depending on the promise of Oregon’s share of the federal reserve of vaccines being released to us.”
Later Friday, Brown announced a two-week delay in vaccinating Oregon seniors, saying those 80 and over will get their first doses the week of February 8th.
Seniors 75 and older will be next on the list followed by 70-year-olds and 65-years-olds in subsequent waves of vaccinations. Specific dates for those groups have not been announced.
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said educators can begin vaccinations the week of January 25th pending the arrival of expected doses from the federal government. In fact, some local educators have already received their first doses.
The governor had planned a Friday news conference to outline a plan to expand vaccination efforts to seniors and teachers in the coming weeks after learning earlier this week the federal government would release “its full reserves available to the states, rather than holding some doses in storage.”
It was welcome news for seniors vulnerable to a disease that’s killed more than 1,700 Oregonians and educators who will return to the classroom later this month.
“This is a deception on a national scale” – Gov. Kate Brown
But the focus of her news conference changed after she said after “the Trump Administration pulled the rug from under us like a cruel joke.”
“I am demanding answers from the Trump administration. Their empty promises are literally playing with people’s lives,” she said. “So many of Oregon’s seniors have spent the past year separated from their children and grandchildren, and were eager to hear that additional life-saving vaccines were headed to states for them.”
Brown said the decision to prioritize teachers over seniors hinged on her commitment to get kids back in the classroom as soon as possible.
She said she believes the state can get the state’s roughly 100,000 teachers vaccinated within a two-week time frame and then turn their attention to seniors.
The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems issued a statement Friday saying is supported the governor’s decision to delay the vaccination expansion efforts.
“It is unfortunate that the news on Monday set unrealistic expectations about the available supply of vaccine,” said President and CEO Becky Hultberg. “From the beginning, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been unpredictable. At the 11th hour, hospitals shouldered a huge part of the burden for distribution of the doses, with little outside support. The fact that the playing field keeps changing makes this work even more difficult in the midst of a pandemic, as our overburdened staffs take care of a surge of patients.”
Allen also said there were several factors responsible for the fact it appears there are 150,000 doses of the vaccine sitting on shelves across the state based on the number of doses sent to the state (326,300) and the number of doses administered (173,073.)
He said the CDC counts doses when they’re shipped, not received and vaccinators across the state have three days to report their numbers, which causes a lag in the numbers.
Additionally, he said thousands of doses are scheduled to be administered through events at hospitals and clinics statewide.
“We don’t think it’s accurate to say there are 150,000 does sitting on a shelf,” he said. “There are 150,000 doses that we can’t report have been administered yet.”
St. Charles announced Friday it would set up a
Last night, I received disturbing news, confirmed to me directly by General Perna of Operation Warp Speed: States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) January 15, 2021
A copy of the letter is available here.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee chimed in Friday morning following Brown’s tweet.
“Governors were told repeatedly by (HHS) there was a strategic reserve of vaccines, and this week, the American people were told it’d be released to increase supply of vaccine,” he said. “It appears now that no reserve exists. The Trump admin. must answer immediately for this deception.”