SALEM, Ore. — Despite notifying the public of a swift reversal on expanded COVID-19 vaccinations on Friday morning, Governor Kate Brown said later in the day that state officials will still forge ahead with vaccinating educators and seniors on an adjusted timeline.
Brown announced the expansion of Oregon's vaccination efforts to include teachers and seniors 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 Thursday that 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.
Federal Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had announced on Tuesday that his agency was making available "the full reserve doses" it had so that states could step up administration of vaccines.
After adjusting to Thursday's disappointing news, Governor Brown said that state officials will have to delay vaccinations for seniors by roughly two weeks. Instead of opening vaccinations up to all seniors 65 and older this month, the process will be opened up to seniors 80 and older beginning on February 8.
Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen said that the rollout of vaccines to seniors would be done in four stages over time — beginning with those 80 and older, followed by 75 and up, 70 and up, and ultimately all seniors 65 and older.
With reopening Oregon schools still a major priority, Brown said that educators and school staff can begin getting the vaccine on January 25, if not sooner. Allen mentioned that some counties will be administering vaccines to teachers prior to that date.
"As I've said for months, one of my main priorities is getting our kids back to in-person instruction in the classroom, and to protect our educational staff to help achieve this goal," Brown said.
The goal is to vaccinate most educators "within two weeks," according to Allen, depending on distribution from the federal government.
The Oregon Association of Hospital and Health Systems (OAHHS) released a statement on Friday afternoon, supporting Brown's decision to alter the timeline.
“When the federal government announced this week that the full reserve of vaccine would be released to states and that Oregon would be offering doses to educators and those aged 65+, we were supportive but skeptical that the supply would meet this massive increase in the number of Oregonians who would become eligible," said OAHHS President and CEO Becky Hultberg. "Now we all have learned that there will be no increase in the number of vaccine doses delivered to Oregon. We support Governor Brown’s decision to delay the expansion until we can be sure that the doses are in hand to meet this demand."
According to OHA's Patrick Allen, about 40 percent of people in Phase 1a had been vaccinated as of Friday. The state expects to have 56 percent of those groups vaccinated by January 25 — accounting for roughly 225,000 healthcare workers, first responders, and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.