PORTLAND, Ore. — Dr. Rhett Cummings is a critical care doctor at the Oregon Clinic and Providence. He is excited about the COVID-19 vaccine coming to Oregon.
"Especially as front-line workers in the hospital, this is the first phase with a long ways to go over the next many months," said Dr. Cummings.
Two vaccines are coming on the market: one from Pfizer and the other from Moderna. The Pfizer vaccine is already being sent to states before the expected emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
"We're assuming, and the state is assuming with receiving this number of vaccines that the FDA is going to approve on the 17th of December," said Dr. Cummings.
But, questions remain.
"What's yet to be determined and what we haven't heard is where we are going to be getting the shots," Dr. Cummings explained.
He is still not sure which of the two vaccines they'll get at his clinic, but says with either it's important for people to get two doses.
"Percentages that you hear about on the news of 90% effective, for instance, that's very dependent on receiving that second booster dose for full immunization," explained Dr. Cummings.
After essential workers and high risk people get vaccinated, Oregon will move on to giving shots to populations disproportionately affected by the virus. That includes people from racial and ethnic minoritized groups.
Veronica Leonard with organization Latino Network says a specific callout needs to go the Latino population, "because we know that our community, of all the communities of color, is the one that has been hit the hardest." Latinos make up 13% of the state population and 27% of positive cases.
In Multnomah County, Black, Indigenous and other people of color represent 40% of COVID-19 cases, despite comprising only 30% of residents.
Leonard urges health officials to have culturally-specific messages when rolling out the vaccine in these communities.
"We really need to have experts from each community informing those messages so that we're making sure that we're addressing the specific beliefs and fears that each community may have," said Leonard. "I think this will lead to the greatest uptake of the vaccines."
While Dr. Cummings calls the vaccine a game-changer, he said it doesn't mean we should stop wearing masks and taking precautions.