Oregon is expecting to receive a large chunk of federal stimulus money this week to help pay for its COVID-19 vaccination program.
Congress approved $3 billion for states to use for vaccine activities under the supplemental pandemic stimulus bill that went into law in late December. Oregon’s share of those funds is $38.1 million, although only a portion of that is expected to be distributed this week.
“Particularly now, it is crucial that states and communities have the resources they need to conduct testing, and to distribute and administer safe, high-quality COVID-19 vaccines safely and equitably,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement by the agency.
The money can be used to promote and track as well as to distribute and administer the vaccines. The latter is where Oregon’s vaccination program has bogged down.
The state has struggled to vaccinate large numbers of people, although by late last week it was able to hit the 12,000 doses-per-day vaccination target put forth by Gov. Kate Brown. Oregon Health Authority Chief Medical Officer Dana Hargunani cited challenges with vaccine distribution as well as navigating scheduling, physical distancing at vaccination sites and the observation period required immediately after the vaccine is administered.
OHA Director Patrick Allen told OPB’s “Think Out Loud” Friday that the federal money would go towards staffing and backfilling positions that have been reassigned to the vaccination effort.
“Much of that money gets shared with local public health and community-based organizations and others to do that work,” he said. “Hospitals have been doing a lot of work on their own dimes that we’ll need to be able to pay for.”
OHA will also use the money on public outreach promoting the vaccine.
As of Friday, OHA reported 15,789 Oregonians have been fully vaccinated (receiving both necessary doses for maximum protection) with another nearly 139,000 people having received the first dose. But plans to expand the pool of Oregonians eligible for vaccination have been stymied by recent revelations that states would not receive an expected increase in vaccine shipments from the national stockpile — because there is no national stockpile. Oregon was expecting 200,000 additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Allen said the supply of vaccines from the federal government is now the biggest limiting factor to Oregon’s vaccination push.
The stimulus bill also provides $243 million to Oregon for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, surveillance and containment efforts.