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Asante, Providence to begin vaccinating medical staff for COVID-19 on Friday

Asante is among the first healthcare providers in the state to receive some of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccines, but doses are extremely limited.

Posted: Dec 17, 2020 12:01 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2020 10:25 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Asante is one of the first healthcare providers in the state of Oregon to received a shipment of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, but doses will be extremely limited for the near future.

Several administrators from Asante held a briefing with members of the press on Thursday, as Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center prepares to begin its first vaccinations for healthcare workers on Friday.

Oregon received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, amounting to 35,100 doses, which are now being distributed to healthcare providers throughout the state. According to Asante, they are one of the first five health systems in Oregon to receive the vaccine.

The very first healthcare workers in Oregon received their vaccinations Wednesday, and the event was streamed live by Governor Kate Brown's office and hospital administrators.

At Asante's facilities, this first shipment will only cover doses for less than 15 percent of the staff. Medical staff who work in the highest-risk areas — where patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 are being cared for — will be prioritized.

The Pfizer vaccine is particularly high-maintenance, requiring that it be kept in "ultra-cold storage" to maintain a temperature of -70 degrees Celcius prior to deployment. The Moderna vaccine, which has yet to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA, does not require the same meticulous storage method.

Asante said that it will not be receiving the Moderna vaccine, which will largely be prioritized for healthcare facilities that do not have the capacity for ultra-cold storage, particularly in more rural areas. Another shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is tentatively scheduled for arrival in Oregon on December 22, along with the first wave of Moderna doses.

It may be mid-to-late February before Asante says it will be able to vaccinate 100 percent of its staff, as shipments of the vaccine continue to trickle in.

Surveys have suggested that nearly half of Oregonians are unsure if they want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to Holly Nickerson, Asante's Director of Quality, distrust is not so high among healthcare workers — but it does exist to some extent. In a survey of Asante staff, 60 percent said that they absolutely wanted to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, while the remainder at least wanted more information.

"Oregon and Vermont are actually the only two states that don't require — it's not a mandatory thing to vaccinate people within our state," Nickerson said. "And so, while we cannot mandate the vaccine, and will not mandate this vaccine, it's important that we just continue to reinforce education."

Nickerson cited Oregon law, which stipulates that "a worker shall not be required as a condition of work to be immunized" under a section regarding immunization for healthcare workers and first responders. Employers in those fields must provide vaccines for infectious diseases "at no cost" to the worker, but cannot require them unless otherwise mandated by federal or state law.

Meanwhile, Providence says that it has received a total of 2,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in this first wave. Those doses were distributed between the medical provider's two Portland hospitals and Providence Medford Medical Center.

Doses of the vaccine arrived in Medford on Thursday, and Providence plans to begin vaccinating front-line caregivers on Friday afternoon.


EDIT: This story has been corrected with further context from Asante to reflect that Oregon law does indeed prohibit mandated vaccinations for healthcare workers and first responders. The earlier verson cited other reporting that indicated vaccines could be required by employers at large, but was not specific to the healthcare field.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 154878

Reported Deaths: 2206
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31824528
Washington21099212
Marion18373285
Clackamas13328175
Lane10200126
Jackson8315111
Umatilla763982
Deschutes593459
Yamhill376764
Linn357756
Malheur334458
Polk303942
Klamath278455
Douglas244754
Josephine232849
Benton232516
Jefferson195128
Coos144019
Union128119
Columbia124821
Wasco122026
Lincoln112820
Hood River106429
Morrow104614
Clatsop7756
Crook77518
Baker6507
Curry4246
Tillamook4142
Lake3746
Harney2736
Grant2221
Wallowa1424
Gilliam531
Sherman530
Wheeler221
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Cases: 3559311

Reported Deaths: 51794
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Los Angeles118923221241
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2860772783
Orange2607213982
San Diego2589823260
Santa Clara1102371777
Kern102627811
Fresno950151422
Sacramento929611464
Alameda802791241
Ventura77395834
San Joaquin665691082
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus55887946
Tulare47784746
Monterey42138327
San Mateo38872515
San Francisco34138398
Santa Barbara31763407
Solano30024164
Merced28915395
Sonoma28004298
Imperial26855589
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15414209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12787185
Shasta10969174
Butte10922160
El Dorado9095100
Napa899869
Sutter884597
San Benito575259
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Tuolumne394659
Nevada394074
Mendocino379643
Amador344841
Humboldt318033
Lake314140
Glenn221923
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128736
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
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