State leaders will announce Friday that the next wave of Oregonians to start receiving COVID-19 vaccinations after seniors will be residents ages 45 and older who have underlying medical conditions, including cancer, Type 2 diabetes and severe obesity – but not smokers.
Officials say this group will be eligible no later than March 29. Farm workers, employees in food processing and people who are homeless also will be eligible at the same time.
By May 1, the state plans to open vaccinations to people with underlying medical conditions ages 16 to 44. Frontline workers such as grocery store employees, restaurant and bar staff, bus drivers, construction workers and government employees also will become eligible on that same date. But those workers must not be able to work from home and must have close contact with others outside their household as part of their jobs.
By June 1, the state plans to allow the general healthy population of Oregonians 45 and older to start vaccinations.
By July 1, anyone 16 or older should become eligible for the vaccines, officials say.
The news will be made official during a news conference held by Gov. Kate Brown and public health leaders at 11 a.m. Friday. The announcement will be live-streamed on YouTube.
Dave Baden, chief financial officer for the Oregon Health Authority, said he expects all seniors age 65 and older who want the vaccine to have received their first doses by late March — allowing the state to open the floodgates in the following three months to an estimated 800,000 residents with underlying conditions and 980,000 frontline workers.
But Baden said he thinks the new timeline is conservative: He believes there will be enough vaccine coming to Oregon to give a first dose to every adult Oregonian by the end of May. Baden said state officials might move up the dates announced Friday thanks to dramatic increases in promised shipments from the federal government.
“We think we could go faster,” Baden said. “But we want to assure that we’re setting targets today so at least someone can say, ‘I can see when I’m going to be eligible.'”
State officials said they’re leaving the definitions of who qualifies as having “underlying medical conditions” up to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — with two exceptions. The CDC recommends people who meet the definition of obese — who have a body mass index of 30 or higher — to be included. Oregon will set more stringent criteria of severely obese, with a body mass index of 40 or higher.
The CDC also recommends smokers be included, but Oregon has excluded them from early vaccinations. Rachael Banks, director of the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division, said smokers might qualify for early vaccinations for other reasons that include lung disease or heart disease.
Oregon’s list of underlying conditions includes cancer that is currently active, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung diseases, Down syndrome, some heart conditions, a weakened immune system from organ transplants, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, diabetes and severe obesity. The list doesn’t include high blood pressure.