By SARA CLINE
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon health officials say they are expecting chaos next week, when about 167,000 people who are 80 years or older will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
In preparation for the drastic increase of eligible people, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday during a press conference that additional National Guard members will be deployed to help field calls and texts from seniors signing up and seeking information on vaccinations.
“It’s probably going to be pretty chaotic here,” Director Patrick Allen told The Associated Press Thursday night. “We are probably going to have phone lines that are hard to get through on. We are going to have scheduling systems that are going to be hard to get appointments.”
Beginning Feb. 8, Oregonians who are 80 or older will be eligible for the vaccine. The week of Feb. 14, seniors 75 and older will be eligible eligible. The week of Feb. 28, seniors 70 and older will be eligible. Lastly, the week of March 7, seniors 65 and older will be eligible.
Oregon officials opted to prioritize teachers before the elderly for COVID vaccinations in an attempt to get children back to in-person learning faster.
In total in early March, around 700,000 seniors will be eligible for the vaccine.
Allen said the Oregon Health Authority has been working with counties to make sure seniors have access to the vaccine.
Health officials said that up until a couple weeks ago, Oregon was consistently getting 52,000 first vaccine doses a week.
However, that is increasing to 75,600 doses.
“Things are going to be a little bit chaotic, but we are getting enough vaccine where we are going to be able to work quickly through this population and be able to finish sooner than we thought,” Allen said.