Oregon will not adjust its COVID-19 vaccination timeline to meet President Joe Biden’s fast-tracked schedule until the federal government can promise more vaccine doses, Gov. Kate Brown said in a press conference Friday.
Brown’s remarks come the day after Biden said in an address to the nation that he wants all U.S. adults eligible to receive a vaccine by May 1. NPR reported that the president will direct states, tribes and territories to adjust their timelines accordingly.
Oregon health officials announced just two weeks ago that everyone would be eligible to receive a first vaccine dose by July 1 — a full two months behind Biden’s target.
Brown cheered the president’s ambition and said Oregon will change its vaccine schedule “if the doses are there.” The state is administering about 24,000 shots per day.
“We’re gonna have to substantially increase that capacity,” Brown said, “and that, of course, is dependent upon supply.”
The Biden administration has not indicated how many more doses Oregon can receive and when it can receive them.
“Until we get more clarity, we need to keep our current timelines in place,” said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority. “We can’t disappoint people who eagerly want a vaccine. We need to see the increased doses in the federal ordering system.”
Oregon projects it will receive more than 200,000 doses a week by the end of March. The state estimates it will have enough vaccine to deliver first shots to all Oregon adults by the end of May.
Allen said hitting the president’s target would require shipments somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 doses per week.
The next group of people eligible to receive a vaccine includes adults between ages 45 and 64 with underlying health conditions, farmworkers, seafood and agricultural workers, food processors, people in low-income and congregate senior housing, people experiencing homelessness, people displaced by wildfires, and wildland firefighters. Vaccine appointments will open to that group by March 29.
The Oregon Health Authority also added pregnant women 16 years and older to that group.
Also Friday, Brown signed an executive order enacting her previously announced intention to return public school students to full or hybrid in-person learning statewide this spring. Kindergarteners and elementary students will return by the last week of March, middle and high school students by mid-April.
State officials loosened restrictions Friday in several of Oregon’s most-populous counties, including Multnomah, Lane and Deschutes. Many indoor activities like dining and religious services can open up to 50% capacity in those counties.
Oregon has reported 159,037 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. More than 2,300 people in Oregon have died with COVID-19.
The state has administered at least one dose of vaccine to 19% of its population. About 11% of Oregonians are fully vaccinated.
Watch the media event here (begins at 32:10):