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Some Oregon seniors on CDC list for COVID-19 vaccine priority

A Tigard senior living community is one of the first in the country signed up for residents to receive COVID-19 vaccine priority.

TIGARD, Ore. — An Oregon retirement community is among the first local senior living communities to enroll in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national COVID-19 vaccine program.

Once a vaccine is approved, CVS and Walgreens will provide free, on-site vaccination clinics at senior living communities across the country.

Residents at Summerfield Estates Retirement Community in Tigard said they're ready. 

"We were in our rooms for six months, that's a long time," described resident Nancy Foote. "We can't see our families or go out with friends."

More than 100 people live in the Summerfield community, which has not seen any COVID-19 cases so far.

Executive director Kevin Stadelman said that accomplishment comes from sacrifices by residents and their families.

"It also affects how they feel. Where else are they supposed to go besides breakfast, lunch and dinner?" Stadelman said.

An effective vaccine could change that.

"We could let family back in. That's been the hardest part," Stadelman said.

Dr. Jan Medlock is an associate professor at Oregon State University's department of biomedical science. His research from 2009 about flu and H1N1 is getting new attention during COVID-19.

Some of Medlock's findings highlighted vaccine distribution and priority for different groups.

RELATED: Oregon researcher explains COVID-19 vaccine development and safety

He noted during the early days of H1N1, vaccines were less effective and difficult to access. Vulnerable communities received priority to help reduce their risk of severe illness.

However, Medlock said the dynamics during COVID-19 could be different with more widespread infection compared to H1N1 and a larger projected supply of vaccines.

"When you get more vaccine, we saw it was better to actually vaccinate the people who do all the transmitting," Medlock said. 

With potential COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna being 95-percent effective, Medlock explained younger people who are now spreading the virus at higher rates will need the vaccine, too.

"Indirectly protect the people who are more at risk of severe disease and death," Medlock said.

He said medical workers and first responders also need priority.

In the meantime, Summerfield Estates residents like Cara Johnson urged neighbors to take the virus seriously and consider vulnerable communities.

"Wear your masks for God's sake. Not just to protect yourself but to protect other people," Johnson said. "We all need to be vaccinated ... My concern is there's still a plethora of people who still think it's all a hoax. They're on their death bed saying it's a hoax."

"If everybody follows the guidelines ... then maybe we can push [the virus] out or get the vaccine and be done with it," Stadelman said.

RELATED: Pfizer seeking emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in US