SALEM, Ore. — Oregon's plan to begin vaccinating seniors, teachers, and childcare workers later this month likely will not materialize after news that a promised increase in shipments from the federal government are not coming, according to Governor Kate Brown's office.
Brown announced the expansion of Oregon's vaccination efforts earlier this week, after the Trump administration said that it would release its full reserve of vaccine doses to the states. But Brown says that state officials recently learned the stockpile was "a deception on a national scale."
"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," Brown said in a statement on Friday morning.
"I am demanding answers from the Trump Administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences," she continued. "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."
Federal Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced on Tuesday that his agency was making available "the full reserve doses" it had so that states could step up administration of vaccines.
"This next phase reflects the urgency of the situation we face: Every vaccine dose that is sitting in a warehouse rather than going into an arm could mean one more life lost or one more hospital bed occupied," Azar said.
"Because we now have a consistent pace of production, we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve, with second doses being supplied by doses coming off of manufacturing lines with quality control," he later remarked.
In his statement, Azar criticized state governments for restricting vaccines to people in Phase 1a — healthcare workers, first responders, and the residents and staff of certain long-term care facilities — instead of making the currently limited supply of doses available to other groups.
"We are telling states today that they should open vaccinations to all of their most vulnerable people," Azar said. "That is the most effective way to save lives now, and some states' heavy-handed micromanagement of this process has stood in the way of vaccines' reaching a broader swath of the vulnerable population more quickly."
On Thursday, Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen penned a letter to Secretary Azar after learning that the stockpiled doses were not scheduled to be delivered — excoriating the HHS chief for leading state officials to believe that they could open up vaccinations to seniors and other categories without a corresponding increase in doses.
"Those plans were made on the basis of reliance on your statement about 'releasing the entire supply' you have in reserve," Allen wrote. "If this information is accurate, we will be unable to begin vaccinating our vulnerable seniors on January 23rd as planned."
Earlier this week, Governor Brown had announced a press conference to be held on Friday to address the planned expansion of vaccinations. That briefing is now set for 2 p.m.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.