PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon were quickly booked Monday, as residents who are 80 years and older became eligible to receive doses of the scarce and highly anticipated vaccine.
Seniors in Oregon have waited weeks to receive the vaccine, after the original eligibility date was delayed and then Gov. Kate Brown decided to prioritize educators ahead of the elderly.
The elderly have been the hardest hit group in state when it comes to the virus — people 60 years and older account for 90% of Oregon's COVID-19 deaths.
On Monday, seniors 80 and older began to receive shots. Eligibility will expand to younger age groups each week: 75 and older starting Feb. 15, 70 and older starting Feb. 22 and 65 and older starting March 1.
The Oregonian/Oregon Live reported Monday that every available appointment for seniors in the Portland area was booked within the first two and a half hours they were eligible. All appointments at the Oregon Convention Center and Portland International Airport’s red economy parking lot for the next week -- through Tuesday, Feb. 16 -- were taken.
Last week, Oregon health officials warned that as 168,000 elderly Oregonians become eligible there could be issues.
In preparation for the increase in eligible people, Brown announced Friday that 30 additional National Guard members would be deployed to help field 211 calls and texts from seniors signing up and seeking information on vaccinations.
Officials from 211info, Oregon and Southwest Washington’s information referral line for health and human services, said earlier this month that their call volume had gone from 400 calls a day before the pandemic to 1,800 calls a day during the vaccine rollout — overwhelming the hotline.
Health officials have encouraged Oregonians to text, call or email 211 or 1-866-698-6155 for information about receiving the vaccine. People can also text ORCOVID to 898211 to receive updates.
On Monday, the health authority launched an online tool, getvaccinated.oregon.gov, where caregivers or family members of Oregon seniors can go to help their elderly family member sign up for a vaccine.
Elderly people living in Clackamas, Columbia, Marion, Multnomah or Washington counties are urged to use the state's vaccine information chat bot tool, on the oregon.gov website, to schedule vaccine appointments.
Along with mass vaccination sites, vaccines will also be administered to local practices and public health facilities, drive-thru centers, mobile sites and 133 pharmacies across the state.
“In coming days, we know there will be more demand for vaccinations and for answers to questions than we may be able to provide," Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said Monday. “My promise to older Oregonians is this: if you want a vaccination, you will get one. But it may not be tomorrow, this week or even two weeks from now. But you will get one.”
In addition, the Oregon Health Authority reported 305 new confirmed coronavirus cases Monday, the lowest amount of daily COVID-19 cases since October 2020. The state’s total amount of cases since the start of the pandemic to 147,419. The death toll is 2,024.
Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.