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Oregon to start ramping up COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Health officials will reach more people by expanding vaccination clinics to include public health departments and, eventually, pharmacies in Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 20,000 Oregonians have received the COVID-19 vaccine and more are getting vaccinated everyday.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has more than 100,000 doses of the vaccine ready to go and plans to start ramping up vaccinations in the days to come.

Oregon Health & Science University cardiac nurse Mary Ames got the Pfizer vaccine last Wednesday. She wasn't expecting to get it so soon.

She learned only minutes before getting it that she was one of the lucky ones.

"I immediately started crying," she said. "I'm just thrilled. I'm so happy. It was such a beautiful process and a beautiful, monumental thing to be part of."

She likened it to getting that annual flu shot.

"Exactly like that," she said. "Its not that deep, it's fast, it's over and done with like that."

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 As for any side effects?

"Hardly," she said. "Like, a sore arm a little bit, but I'm not complaining. I'll take that over COVID any day."

Her husband, who is also a nurse, also experienced only a sore arm. As did her mom.

"My mom's a nurse in New York," Ames explained. "She got her vaccine and she hasn't had any side effects, she said a couple of her friends had the body aches and the headaches but real, real mild."

As of Dec. 28, more than 20,000 Oregonians had been vaccinated.

OHA admits that the initial start-up took some time, but things are running much more smoothly now.

The state has received a total of 59,475 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and 72,100 doses from Moderna, for a total of 131,575 doses.

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Health officials expect another 100,000 Oregonians to be vaccinated over the next couple of weeks by expanding vaccination clinics to include public health departments and eventually pharmacies.

But as of now, the state is still in the initial phase, so only health care workers and employees and residents of long-term care facilities can get the vaccine. 

"Getting the vaccine, it's the first time I've felt hope since March," Ames said.

She will get her second dose in a little over two weeks. After that it will take one to two weeks to be fully effective.

She encourages everyone who can get the vaccine to do it. It's a quick, simple, yet lifesaving process.

"I just can't express my gratitude enough," she said, "Being able to feel hopeful, it's so nice. And emotional."

Watch: COVID-19 vaccine updates