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SARA CLINE Associated Press/Report for America
Published: 18 March 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — All adult residents in Oregon will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning May 1, state health officials confirmed Wednesday.

Last week, following President Joe Biden’s pledge to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she would not change the state’s eligibility schedule until she was sure the state would receive enough vaccines.

Since then Oregon officials said they have received an order, from the United States Department of Health and Human Service, that directs vaccination sites to make the change with eligibility.

“We are following up with the administration for more specifics about when vaccine shipments to states will increase, but in a briefing with governors earlier this week, it was clear the White House has worked hard to secure additional vaccine supplies for states in the coming weeks,” Charles Boyle a spokesman from the governor's office said Wednesday.

Speaking on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud podcast, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said the state will comply with the federal request.

“It leaves us a little bit nervous,” Allen told OPB.

“To be fair, this administration has generally been pretty good about what it has assured us we will be able to see.”

During a news conference on Friday Allen brought up one of the last times an administration had promised Oregon an increase in doses — former President Donald Trump’s administration in January. When the administration wasn’t able to fulfill their promise, officials in Oregon changed the eligibility timeline — choosing to prioritize teachers ahead of the elderly.

Current eligibility

Currently in Oregon, those who can receive the vaccine include health care workers, first responders, teachers and residents over age 65. People who are 45 or older with a pre-existing condition, seasonal and migrant farmworkers, food processors, the homeless and those affected by last summer’s wildfires are scheduled to become eligible on March 29. In addition, essential workers and people with underlying conditions between 16 and 45 are scheduled to become eligible May 1.

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Allen said on the Think Out Loud podcast that the health authority is still figuring out if it is “feasible” for the state, to move vulnerable populations ahead of May 1.

The governor has yet to announce specific changes to the rest of the current eligibility timeline.

However, Boyle did say Wednesday that the health authority and governor will “continue to center equity in all of our vaccine distribution efforts, whether that means ensuring that seniors, people with underlying conditions, frontline workers and Oregonians most vulnerable to COVID-19 have the opportunity for vaccinations prior to May 1 or after May 1, working with local health partners to ensure these priority groups continue to have access to appointments.”

Outdoor event capacities to increase

As of Friday, Oregon was administering an average of 24,000 shots per day and at least 11% of Oregonians have been fully vaccinated.

In addition, health officials announced Wednesday that capacity limits for outdoor activities will be increasing, depending on a county’s risk level.

The changes allow fans to attend outdoor sporting events, like Portland Thorns FC and Timbers FC in early April.

Extreme risk counties can allow 50 people, high risk can open up to 15% occupancy, moderate risk can open up to 25% occupancy and lower risk can open up to ‘50’ occupancy. The Portland metro area falls under high risk.

Since the start of the pandemic the Oregon Health Authority has reported 160,259 coronavirus cases in the state. The death toll is 2,349.

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.

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