PORTLAND, Oregon — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is moving up the eligibility date for everyone 16 and older to get a COVID shot. At the same time, expected supply of the vaccine is going down.
The governor said everyone old enough will be eligible April 19, the same day President Joe Biden said he wants every American eligible. Previously, the state's eligibility date for people 16 and older was May 1.
Oregon is enjoying a record amount of vaccine delivered to the state this week. But it’s also about to see the vaccine shipments cut by 60% starting the week of April 12, according to Dave Baden, chief financial officer for the Oregon Health Authority and the person in charge of vaccine roll out.
Current deliveries for the week of April 5 will total roughly 220,000 doses, including 120,000 of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But for the week starting April 12, the vaccine shipments will total roughly 100,000 doses.
Just two weeks ago, leaders at the Oregon Health Authority expected to get 250,000 doses that week and every following week into May.
“It’s a pretty significant reduction for what we’d be able to get out there,” said Baden. “So it will create some challenges."
Baden said the shortfall is from Johnson & Johnson’s factory issue on the East Coast. A mix up caused 15 million doses to be tossed out, and future shipments were temporarily stopped.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply that's already in Oregon is safe.
Baden wants Oregonians to understand that changing eligibility dates do nothing to increase vaccine shipments, and there are sure to be fewer doses than people who want the vaccine.
“As we move into May, it will take a little while for everyone to get that appointment. We’re encouraging our partners to schedule out appointments two, three or four weeks ahead of time,” he added.
Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said she understands why the governor and others are pushing to move deadlines.
“I completely agree with the governor’s sense of urgency around getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” she said.
But on the front lines, she also knows that eligibility is different that an appointment for a vaccination.
“We are struggling with supply, and we are prepared to ramp up our efforts as far as getting medical personnel and vaccine sites ready,” Dr. Vines said.
“But until we have that supply, its very difficult to make plans and essentially impossible to offer people appointments,” she added.
Baden, with OHA, said its unclear how long Oregon will be getting the lower number of vaccine doses. But it almost certainly means there will not be enough for the estimated 1 million people who become eligible April 19.
“The challenge will be there will be some traffic jams. It was gonna be traffic jams on May 1st. There will be traffic jams on April 19th of how many doses coming into the state and frankly how many doses that are being produced by vaccine manufacturers,” he said.
It’s unclear if the state will even hit its goal of giving everyone 16 and over at least one dose by the first week of June.
In the meantime, the traffic jam is already here.
The OHSU scheduling website for the Portland airport and Hillsboro Stadium struggled to keep up with demand Monday and Tuesday morning. A spokesperson said 11,000 people were crammed onto the site each day at 9 a.m., but the site is only designed to handle 4,800 people at once.
OHSU offered 7,545 appointments on Monday and 5,700 on Tuesday. Each day, they were snapped up in 30 minutes or less.
One of the many frustrated people trying to get the site to work Tuesday was Hannah Rott.
“It was just error after error," she said. "And then finally I was in. It was a little loading icon, and I could see appointments; but it wouldn’t let me grab them, and then it would crash and say 'sorry our server crashed.' So, I just kept trying. Then eventually I got an appointment for tomorrow and I went to the next step and it crashed again,” she said.
Rott said a friend later helped her find an appointment.
An OHSU spokeswoman said the site is being looked at to see if there is a way to make it work better, but the fundamental issue is way more demand than supply of appointments.
OHSU will make more appointments available at 9 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
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