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Thousands of 1A health care workers still waiting to get COVID vaccine in Oregon

A system to help connect 1A healthcare workers with vaccine appointments was set up before the Governor added teachers to the vaccine line.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Gwen Welch and her husband run the Healing Haven LLC, a group practice of mental health practitioners with offices in four Oregon cities.

They're able to see some patients via video but not all.

“As you can imagine, when somebody tells you that they're suicidal and you're on a telehealth call, it’s not a sufficient way of conducting therapy, an in-office appointment is needed,” said Welch.

Welch who is in the 1A category but not affiliated with a hospital system has tried to get her 15 employees the COVID vaccine for weeks now.

“Once you figure out if you’re in the 1A group, there's absolutely no way to find out from there where to go, how to go, when to go,” said Welch.

Public health departments in the metro area announced a plan to help these 1A workers on Jan. 12. Each employer was asked to fill out a survey and provide information including the number of employees who need vaccines. Solo health practitioners were asked to fill out the survey themselves.

Multnomah County Health officials said 5,000 people filled out the survey for 56,000 1A workers. Turns out, according to health officials, most of those people are still waiting to get the vaccine.

The survey idea was hatched before Governor Kate Brown decided to add teachers to the priority group.

Multnomah County Health Officials said there is not enough vaccine to go around. Spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said in an email:

We understand people are frustrated and we share their frustration. There is not enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone who is eligible or for everyone who has filled out our survey. The survey was intended to link applicants to appointment slots with the health systems as vaccines become available. The survey was created before the governor set the timeline for school personnel. We are working with OHA and the health care systems to make sure that 1A populations have the same way to access vaccines as educators and others who became eligible today. We want to emphasize that there are still thousands of people in 1A in the Metro counties who have not received their first dose of vaccine and it may take several weeks or months for this to happen. We appreciate your patience during this trying time. 

Health officials expect more details this week about the thousands of 1A workers still waiting on a vaccine.

Do you have a vaccine-related story idea or question? Email us at CallCristin@kgw.com