PORTLAND — Despite historic winter weather across the country that is causing shipment delays and forcing mass vaccination sites to reschedule appointments, Oregon health officials said Friday that the state’s vaccination timeline remains on schedule.
While more than 10,000 vaccine appointments were canceled last week, beginning Monday people 70 and older will be eligible to receive doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and people 65 and older will be eligible March 1.
“I want to reassure every Oregon senior – nothing that’s happened in the past week will slow down our schedule,” Pat Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, said during a news conference Friday.
Last week a massive snow and ice storm swept into the Pacific Northwest and brought the “most dangerous conditions” seen by utility workers — leaving hundreds of thousands without power, including vaccination sites, and delaying a shipment of 67,000 Moderna doses to the state.
“It seems like every season brings a new test on top of the pandemic. Oregon’s vaccination clinics were no exception,” Allen said. “Over the past week, weather forced clinics to cancel and reschedule appointments, or open late.”
However, health officials say that they do not expect “these problems will have a long-term impact on our vaccination schedule.”
During the past week, Oregon averaged more than 14,000 vaccinations per day. As of Thursday, 12 percent of the state’s population has been vaccinated with first doses and 5 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated.
Health officials delivered more good news Friday. Oregon will be receiving an increased supply of vaccine from the federal government beginning next week — from 83,000 doses to about 107,000.
But the state is still not receiving enough doses to vaccinate everyone on demand.
“While it’s an encouraging sign to see that we’ve vaccinated one-third of all currently eligible seniors – even with weather – we know it will take some more time before we have enough doses to vaccinate a critical mass of everyone who’s currently eligible,” Allen said.
Health officials stressed that they are working to address the challenge of racial and ethnic inequity in the pandemic and in vaccination rates.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in Oregon, but it hasn’t affected every community in the same way,” Allen said.
Based on data from the health authority, white people represent 75 percent of Oregonians. While they only comprise about 48 percent of coronavirus cases, they account for 74 percent of vaccinations.
People who are Latino or Hispanic represent 13 percent of Oregonians. However, they comprise 26 percent of COVID-19 cases and account for 5 percent of the vaccinations administered to date. Black people are 2 percent of the state’s population and represent 2.4 percent of COVID-19 cases. They account for less than 2 percent of administered vaccine.