The Oregon Health Authority took pains Friday to explain why it’s taking COVID-19 vaccines expected in some counties and delivering them to others.
Eighteen Oregon counties have been told they’ll receive less vaccine than expected next week. Those that will see a reduction are Baker, Clatsop, Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Harney, Jefferson, Josephine, Lake, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Sherman, Tillamook, Wasco and Wheeler counties.
Some Republican lawmakers have called the redistribution troubling.
Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, and Sen. Fred Girod, R-Lyons, issued a statement saying the Gov. Kate Brown appears to be prioritizing Portland and urban Oregon over rural parts of the state.
“This is an insult to them and unfair to their communities,” the lawmakers stated. “Cities and counties across the state, who have faced the brunt of the Governor’s shutdown orders, carefully planned to safely vaccinate their communities and have suddenly had their allocations redirected.”
The Republicans said the governor appears to be picking winner and losers. “First, the Emergency Board unfairly allocated federal COVID relief money to prioritize Portland. Now, this. At a time when we should be uniting as a state, the Governor is picking winners and losers and once again punishing rural Oregon.”
But Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said some counties have told him they are confident they’ve vaccinated enough people in the phase 1a population to move onto the next population.
Rather than do that, Allen is sending vaccine to counties that haven’t yet completed phase 1a vaccinations.
“In other words. If you’re a county that believes you’ve vaccinated all your eligible populations, we’re not giving you additional doses to vaccinate your ineligible populations,” Allen said.
Thirteen counties will get extra vaccine the first week of February. The counties — Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, Umatilla and Union — are a mix of rural and urban areas in the state.
Allen said Oregon continues to vaccinate eligible people at a higher rate than many states.
“Oregon remains ahead of most other states in the percentage of our population who’ve received a vaccination and the percentage of doses vaccinators have administered,” he said.
Allen estimates the state is about three-quarters of the way through the 350,000 people in phase 1a.
As of Friday, Oregon has administered 382,374 total first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies with authorized vaccines distributed to Oregon, have promised to provide tens of millions more doses across the country by the end of March.
But those doses are not sitting in a warehouse, waiting to be shipped. The companies are manufacturing at full capacity and releasing between 12 million and 18 million doses a week.