CORONAVIRUS, Health, Oregon

Vaccine eligibility expanded for more underlying conditions, families of frontline workers

Ansu Drammeh, R.N., a cardiovascular intensive care nurse at OHSU, is given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, December 16.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced an expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for people with some underlying health conditions, and for family members that live with frontline workers. 

“As we move into the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to deploy a vaccine strategy that is centered on prioritizing our most vulnerable, and ensuring access to the vaccine for everyone. To do this, we need to move in a manner that is both fast and fair,” Brown said during a press conference held Friday. 

The announcement means that family members of frontline workers — who become eligible in Washington County on Monday, April 5 — can all schedule vaccine appointments when April 5 rolls around. 

Additionally, the list of underlying health conditions that a person must have to qualify for the next phase of vaccine eligibility has been expanded to match the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list. Notably, that will open up eligibility to smokers, among other conditions. The full list of conditions can be found on the CDC website.

Adults age 45 – 64 with underlying conditions are currently eligible for the vaccine, immediately adding people with the expanded list of underlying conditions who qualify to the rolls of those who can get a shot now; on April 5, those ages 16 – 44 with one or more underlying conditions will be eligible as well.

A full list of frontline workers as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is located online on the CDC website. 

Oregon’s partial list of frontline workers, courtesy OHA

Those looking for more information on eligibility, or who wish to sign up for eligibility notifications from the state can visit or dial 211. 

Governor Brown noted an increase in COVID-19 cases in Oregon. Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s state health officer, echoed those concerns. 

“In our most recent Weekly Report, OHA reported 2,456 new daily cases of COVID-19, a 28% increase over the previous week. The percentage of positive tests climbed to 3.7%. These are indications that despite the progress we’ve made, the virus appears to be rebounding,” Sidelinger said. 

“It’s clear that, in Oregon and across the country, the fourth surge of this virus is at our doorstep. While Oregon’s case numbers fortunately haven’t matched those of other states seeing large spikes, our numbers are rising and we are back on alert,” Brown said. 

“We all possess the tools to have the power to slow the virus by continuing to wear masks, gather more safely and keep our distance. And, of course, by getting vaccinated as soon as you are eligible and when it’s your turn. Thank you for continuing to take these steps,” Sidelinger said. 

The state’s timetable to get every willing adult vaccinated may be slightly delayed, thanks to the spoilage of 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a Maryland manufacturing plant. 

“Oregon will not delay our vaccine eligibility timelines, despite the disruption in Johnson and Johnson doses,” said Patrick Allen, the Oregon Health Authority director. 

“On April 5th all frontline workers, younger people with underlying health conditions, and people over 50 who live in multi-generational homes will still be eligible to get vaccinated. And no later than May 1st, we still plan to open vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older,” Allen said.

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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