Oregon’s front line health care workers received the state’s first COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday, a moment that was celebrated by Gov. Kate Brown and top health officials.
Those doses went to a diverse group that included intensive care unit nurses, housekeeping directors and a respiratory therapist.
”This is the moment we have all been waiting for,” Brown said in a statement.
But the rollout was marred by confusion and conflicting statements from Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen about how many vaccine doses actually have been delivered to the state this week.
For the last two weeks, state officials have said Oregon would receive 35,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine by the end of this week. Officials repeated that it had received 35,000 doses so far during a news conference Wednesday morning, and included that figure in a tweet. But Allen later contradicted that.
When asked later during the news briefing to clarify how many doses there actually were, Allen replied that Oregon has received about 5,800 doses this week, which went to two Legacy Health hospitals, a Kaiser Permanente facility, Oregon Health & Science University and St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario.
Allen maintained that this was the correct number of vaccines, and had been allotted based on Oregon’s population. But by Wednesday evening, his agency had sent an update to news organizations, reporting that Oregon had received 4,875 doses, sent to the four health systems. The OHA also reaffirmed its previously stated expectation that Oregon would receive 35,100 doses this week.
By at least one metric, it appears that Oregon’s vaccine shipments are lagging. PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Southwest Washington’s Clark County received 4,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, almost as many as have gone to the entire state of Oregon. Just 500,000 people live in Clark County, compared to Oregon’s 4 million.
All told, Washington State has received 31,000 doses of vaccine so far. The state expects to receive the rest of its population-allotted 62,000 doses by the end of the week. If all shipments arrive, a state with twice the population of Oregon will have received 10 times as many vaccines.
Allen said he expects Oregon to receive more vaccinations over the coming weeks, but did not elaborate on the discrepancy between the two numbers.
It is also unclear how OHA plans to achieve its stated goal of giving two doses of vaccine to 100,000 healthcare workers by the end of December. But Oregon’s 224,000 doses are going to arrive slowly over the month.
But the goal of giving anyone their second vaccine by New Year’s Eve seems unachievable: The doses are given 20 days apart, and there are only 15 days left in December. OPB reached out to the Oregon Health Authority before Wednesday’s event to ask for clarity on numbers, and again after the event. No reply was received at the time of publishing.
Despite the confusion, the vaccine rollout was an emotional event.
The first doses were administered nearly simultaneously in hospital settings across the state. The vaccinations took place before video cameras so they could be live-streamed.
Staff from the Legacy Emanuel, OHSU and St. Alphonsus hospitals volunteered to take the shot.
Five employees at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland all rolled up their sleeves as five different nurses administered the shots — a moment met by cheers.
Mayra Gomez is a registered ICU nurse at Legacy Emanuel and was among the first to receive the vaccine.
She said that as a Latina woman, she felt she had to get the vaccine to serve as an example for her community.
”COVID is disproportionately affecting people of color, and I would love to lead by example,” said Gomez, repeating the statement in Spanish.