PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will not allow seniors 80 and older to sign up in advance for COVID-19 vaccine shots. They will have to wait until Monday, Feb. 8, when they become eligible, according to an OHA spokesman.
During the first week, 19,900 doses will be available statewide for those seniors, a group that is the most vulnerable in Oregon when it comes to COVID-19. That group includes roughly 168,000 people.
On Wednesday, the OHA Director Patrick Allen told a legislative committee he expects things to be rough.
"Every state that’s opened to seniors has had some form of chaos on its hands and I want to be completely transparent. We're gonna have some form of chaos on our hands too,” Allen said.
Many seniors waited and wondered when they could sign up for the shot, how they could do it and where they would have to go if they were lucky enough to secure an appointment.
The OHA left most of those questions unanswered until Thursday, and its still unclear if seniors will be able to call a central phone number to book an appointment.
On top of that, OHA has a significant problem with supply and demand, said Allen.
“The reason is really the green line versus the blue line,” he said, referring to a chart showing the supply of shots versus the demand for them.
“The blue line is the accumulative supply of the vaccine. The green line is how many people are eligible for that vaccine. And up until now, we've kept those two lines reasonably close together," Allen said. "We've always been able to use more vaccine than we have, but they've been close together. Now we're gonna open a really, really big gap, especially at the end of the month when we make 65 and older available."
By the end of the month, a total of 766,000 people 65 and older will be eligible. Allen said about 104,000 people in that group already got a shot because of health issues or living in long-term senior housing or some other qualification of the 1A group.
Still, that leaves 662,000 people who will be eligible in addition to the educators and people still left from group 1A. Allen said Oregon will get about 66,000 doses a week unless something changes with the federal supply.
Doing the math for the group of remaining seniors alone, it would take about 10 weeks to get them all vaccinated. With everyone else who's eligible for shots, Allen said it could be more like four months.
How can you sign up if you qualify? The OHA has an automated tool on its website. You can find it at www.covidvaccine.oregon.gov.
It will allow people in Washington, Clackamas, Multnomah, Columbia and Marion counties to answer screening questions to see if they are eligible for a COVID vaccine. Those who are will be able to schedule the place, date and time of their shot.
KGW's Pat Dooris tried to use the site Thursday and pretended he was over 65 when the automated tool asked me his age category. It stopped him in his tracks, and he had to exit.
He also tried to schedule an appointment on a Portland area Safeway pharmacy page and failed. He got to the calendar section, but there were no dates available yet.
The OHA is rolling out a tool on its website that it says will help people across the state find out about vaccinations in their area.
Here’s a statement from OHA spokesman Jonathan Modie:
“We are not launching a new website, but rather a new web tool that will live on our current site, covidvaccine.oregon.gov. The web tool will be accessible at getvaccinated.oregon.gov, and will allow people to determine if they are eligible for a vaccine and register to get email alerts or text notifications about vaccine events in their area. The Get Vaccinated Oregon tool will be open to all Oregonians and information will be available in 11 languages. It will go live in the next few days.“
Another spokesman did not answer a question as to whether people will be able to book appointments through that new tool, but Patrick Allen, talking to lawmakers, said that they would be able to.
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