Face masks. Photo: Chas Hundley

The Oregon Health Authority announced that the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech arrived in Oregon Monday morning, with deliveries of 975 doses each made around 7 a.m. to two Legacy Health locations, one in Portland and one in Tualatin. 

These first doses will go to frontline workers in the healthcare industry, with more expected to arrive at locations across the state on Tuesday and the rest of the week. In total, 35,100 doses are being shipped to hospitals around the state this week, all reserved to healthcare workers in the hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Oregon. 

It will likely be sometime in the spring before there are enough doses available for the general public to receive a vaccine. Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, approved for use on Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is a two-dose vaccine and provides 95% effectiveness against the virus that causes COVID-19, researchers and the companies responsible for the vaccine said.

In most people, the vaccine causes mild to moderate side effects that wear off quickly, according to the OHA. 

"In recent weeks, as COVID-19 vaccines reached the final stages of approval, I have said time and again that hope is on the way. Today, I can tell you that help is here," said Governor Kate Brown. "The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Oregon, the first of many that will be distributed across the state. Starting with the frontline health care workers who have been our first line of defense against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and the long-term care facility residents who are among the most vulnerable, each day, more and more Oregonians will be vaccinated against this disease.”

And while the arrival of the first dose of the vaccine is a bright spot in a devastating pandemic that has killed more than 1,100 Oregonians, more than 300,000 U.S. residents, and caused more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide, state officials were quick to caution those who might think the pandemic is over from abandoning safety precautions. 

"The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but we will be in this tunnel for several months," Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said. "We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing to help our friends, neighbors and ourselves stay safe."

Another vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical company Moderna is pending emergency approval from the FDA, but if all goes well, shipments of that vaccine are also expected to be sent to Oregon on December 22 and 29, along with more shipments then of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

In total, there should be enough of the two vaccines to provide 100,000 first doses of the vaccine in December, followed by a second dose for those people in January.