A full 20 counties in Oregon, most of them east of the Cascades, are now able to give COVID-19 vaccines to farmworkers, people who are unsheltered and other vulnerable populations ahead of the statewide timeline for distribution.
The Oregon Health Authority announced Tuesday that seven counties had submitted applications saying they have fully vaccinated previously eligible groups and are ready to move ahead. Those counties were Douglas, Harney, Josephine, Klamath, Linn, Sherman and Yamhill.
On Monday, Baker, Benton, Deschutes, Grant, Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Polk, Umatilla and Union counties were similarly approved to move ahead with their vaccine distribution.
Those counties will now be able to enter Phase 1b, Group 6, of vaccination priorities, which is comprised of adults ages 45 to 64 who have an underlying health condition, migrant and seasonal farm workers, seafood and agricultural workers, food processers, people experiencing homelessness, people displaced by wildfires, wildland firefighters, pregnant women older than 16, and people who are living in low-income, senior congregate and independent living facilities.
Oregon has been accelerating its timeline for vaccine distribution in an effort to meet the Biden administration’s goal of making COVID-19 vaccine appointments possible for all adults by May 1. To meet that goal, the state is giving waivers to counties that are ready to administer vaccine to groups who are not yet eligible statewide.
In February, health officials and elected leaders in Eastern Oregon questioned how the state was distributing vaccine and whether their local residents would have equal access. Now, those counties have been able to speed through earlier eligible groups like seniors and teachers. All but five counties east of the Cascades have applied for and received approval to move to the next phase of vaccine distribution.
The mid-Willamette Valley has seen a similarly efficient distribution of vaccine, and will move on to the next groups of people.
Counties that have not yet applied to move ahead will have to wait until March 29 to begin vaccinating people in Phase 1B, Group 6. After that, the state plans to make all essential frontline workers eligible for the vaccine beginning April 19, followed by all adults 16 and older on May 1.