LINCOLN COUNTY — Lincoln County Public Health will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to 1,296 people during clinics at the fairgrounds this week after expanding the pool of eligible recipients by about 5,000, outpacing the governor’s directives by weeks.
With the news that a promised national reserve of vaccines did not exist, and Oregon would not be receiving 200,000 additional doses that would have gone to residents 65 and older, Lincoln County Public Health expected to have to cancel two mass vaccination clinics planned for this week. On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown rolled back the date at which seniors would become eligible for the vaccine from Jan. 23 to Feb. 8 and increased the minimum age to 80 (more than 50 percent of COVID deaths in the state have been people ages 80 and older).
The same day, the county health department paused registrations for its two clinics planned this week. But in a press release Tuesday, it announced that those events are still on and an additional clinic day was added thanks to a shipment of doses from the state. Any Lincoln County resident ages 75 or older was invited to register — about 10 percent of the county’s population — as were school and child care employees and others in phase 1A of the vaccination schedule who had not yet received their shots.
The health department said those who registered prior to the pause and who might have received an email saying the event was canceled should disregard that notice.
There will be three clinics — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 20, 21, and 22 — and all 1,296 appointments were full within hours of Tuesday’s announcement, with more than 100 on a waitlist.
Lincoln County is ahead of the governor’s timeline on several counts — the health department began offering vaccines to seniors two weeks sooner and to a group five years younger than the governor ordered; and Samaritan Health Services started vaccinating Lincoln County School District employees last weekend at its walk-in clinics, in coordination with public health. Brown, on Friday, directed vaccinations to begin for educators and support staff on Jan. 25.
Health department Public Information Officer Susan Trachsel said appointments for school employees came in quickly, and she expected that all of those who want one will receive their first dose by the time the LCSD resumes in-person classes, currently scheduled to begin Feb. 1 for kindergarten through sixth grade. She said Lincoln was the only county she is aware of that has begun educator vaccinations.
Both vaccines in use in Lincoln County require a second dose — four weeks later for Moderna’s and three weeks later for Pfizer’s.
Trachsel said the Oregon Health Authority sent 1,675 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week — 700 to the health department and 975 to Samaritan — which will be administered at the fairground clinics and to assisted living facilities that have not yet been contacted by Walgreens to receive them through a federal program. Paramedics with Pacific West Ambulance Service will give shots this week to residents and staff at Oceanview Senior Living in Newport, Lakeview Senior Living in Lincoln City and Sea Aire Assisted Living in Yachats. Last week, Pac West administered vaccines at Dorchester House in Lincoln City.
Trachsel said years worth of collaboration with organizations like Samaritan, local emergency agencies and first responders prepared them to distribute vaccines quickly despite delays in supply.
Samaritan has given hundreds of shots at both of its hospitals to employees, and it’s given first doses to hundreds of other members of phase 1A in Lincoln County, which includes other medical/health workers, first responders and educators. Pac West, North Lincoln Fire & Rescue, Newport Fire Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office have coordinated and administered vaccinations, and the health department has been giving shots at its community health centers.
In its press release Tuesday, the health department said it would notify the media when it would open vaccinations to those age 65 and older, which is about one third of the county’s residents. “People 65-plus are a priority group due to their higher risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes,” the press release said.
The next group to receive vaccinations will be phase 1B, which includes frontline essential workers, such as postal service employees and public transit workers, among others. It’s not clear when phase 1B might begin.
Samaritan is holding a webinar at noon on Thursday, Jan. 21, with an infectious disease specialist and chair of its coronavirus task force, Dr. Adam Brady, to discuss how the vaccines work and give updates on local availability. Registration is required for the online event at samhealth.org/BeHealthy.
Dr. Lesley Ogden, chief executive officer at Samaritan’s Lincoln County hospitals, said vaccine acceptance at those hospitals was the highest among all five of its main health care facilities in the region. At Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport, 77 percent of hospital staff asked for and received the vaccine, and 71 percent of staff in Lincoln City accepted. System-wide, 63.7 percent agreed to receive the vaccine.