Vaccine Distribution Reevaluated, Next Phase Planned

On Thursday, Jan. 28, a twenty-seven-member Vaccine Advisory Committee voted to prioritize the next four groups to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The multicultural and multiracial Committee from across the state which advises the Oregon Health Authority identified the four populations to receive the next priority: 

  1. Adults 65 and under with underlying health conditions as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Frontline essential workers
  3. Adults and youth in custody 16 years and older
  4. People living in low income and congregate senior housing

According to the officials those populations amount to over a million of individuals. OHA’s Public Health Division director, Rachel Banks explained that groups in the next phase of vaccination were selected based the highest risk of illness due to health inequalities and structural racism. 

The vote came after Oregon state lawmakers of color sent a letter to the advisory committee requesting consideration for essential workers and other vulnerable populations, namely members of multigenerational households, according to an article by OPB. 

It would be expected that the selection of groups may cause some controversy much like current criticism of the redistribution of awaited doses of vaccines. Eighteen Oregon counties will receive fewer doses of vaccines than originally promised.  

Doses originally destined for Baker, Clatsop, Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Harney, Jefferson, Josephine, Lake, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Sherman, Tillamook, Wasco and Wheeler counties will be delivered to Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, Umatilla and Union counties. This change in destination was decided upon because the first list of counties have completed phase 1a of vaccinations, while the second list of counties have not. 

Governor Kate Brown faces sharp criticism over recent redistribution of vaccines from some Republican lawmakers. Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, and Sen. Fred Girod, R-Lyons, issued a statement implying that Brown appears to be prioritizing Portland and urban Oregon over rural parts of the state. 

In response, OHA Director Patrick Allen defended the decision on the basis that the counties deprived of the next shipment reported completion of the phase 1a vaccination as of now. Therefore, the upcoming shipments are to be redirected to the counties which have not yet done so.

By Joanna Rosinska