SALEM, Ore. — At a press conference on Friday morning, Governor Kate Brown and officials from the Oregon Health Authority shared some good news on the state's current coronavirus status, while driving home the need for continued precautions for the foreseeable future.
State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger indicated that, while Oregon has continued to see upticks in COVID-19 cases, the anticipated surge from Thanksgiving gatherings has not materialized. Regardless, OHA has continued to mark record daily and weekly case loads, hospitalizations, and deaths from the virus.
Governor Brown announced last week that the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses are anticipated for delivery to Oregon on December 15 — to be followed by thousands more doses over the next several weeks. The state expects to receive 147,000 doses by the end of December.
The FDA advisory committee charged with evaluating vaccines released a statement on Friday reporting a "positive" outcome for the first COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech. The committee said that it had "informed the sponsor that it will rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization" and shared the information with the CDC and Operation Warp Speed.
Friday's briefing did not include any material changes to the timeline, but Brown remarked that the state would need to perform 10,000 vaccinations per day once the doses arrive in order to use all of them by the end of the year. Health care workers, the staff and residents of long-term care facilities are still going to be prioritized to receive the vaccine, and the state estimates that there are 330,000 health care workers in the state.
After distributing vaccines for inpatient care, Brown said that outpatient facilities — including behavioral health clinics — will be among the next wave. However there have been no guarantees of how many vaccine doses will be delivered to Oregon beyond the first 147,000, or when.
State officials are fighting an uphill battle against distrust of the vaccine, citing a September survey where only 4 in 10 of the Oregonians surveyed said that they would certainly get vaccinated. In order to reach "community immunity," an estimated three-fourths of Oregonians would need to be vaccinated, Brown said.
The Pfizer vaccine in particular also poses a unique supply-chain challenge, requiring ultra-cold storage to ensure efficacy. Both Asante and Providence in Medford confirmed on Friday that they have the necessary ultra-cold storage on-site, but health care providers in more rural areas of the state may lack the infrastructure to store the vaccine.
During Friday's briefing, a woman who contracted COVID-19 in March spoke to the seriousness of the virus, describing herself as a "COVID long-hauler" who has continued to experience life-altering symptoms nearly 10 months after she first fell sick.
Darrah Isaacson said that she grew up in Oregon, went to Southern Oregon University, and now lives in southeast Oregon. Isaacson turned 40 in March, and contracted the virus at that time. Though she and her family were healthy and active before she got the virus, Isaacson said that she can barely walk around the block now.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.