PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) – With a “3, 2, 1 – go!” and some light applause after, four health care workers at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center became the first Oregonians on Wednesday to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which Gov. Brown called “truly the moment we have all been waiting for.”
The online event also included similar vaccination events at Oregon Health & Sciences University, also in Portland, and Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario.
“The delivery of safe and effective COVID vaccine brings an overwhelming sense of hope and promise to us all,” Brown said.
Myra Gomez, a registered nurse in the ICU at Legacy Emanuel, said she was “taking the vaccine for my family and also my community,” noting that the virus has been disproportionately affecting Hispanics and other communities of color.
“And I want to lead by example,” Gomez said.
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said Oregon still has the fourth-lowest case rate in the nation and one of the lowest death rates because of the early steps taken by Brown and the OHA to minimize its spread.
Like others, Allen also said the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective, being distributed after “one of the largest and most rigorous trials of a vaccine ever developed,” with more than 40,000 people from all walks of life taking part and “no serious safety concerns” arising.
Allen did note about one-third of those in the tests experienced a fever or chills, and others had headaches, muscle aches or fatigue. “That’s why we’re so careful in planning” for its use, Allen said, adding that those effects are actually a good sign. «It means it’s stimulating the body’s natural immune response. It means it’s working.”
Allen laid out the three phases the nation is following in the vaccine rollout, and the three sub-phases in Phase 1, starting with health care workers who keep hospital capacity up and who are the most exposed to patients, which could spread the virus. That ranges from emergency medics and nurses to staff members in home health care, technicians/technologists and even clerical and laundry workers.
The OHA official said the federal government has promised about 200,000 doses in Oregon this month, and with 300,000 to 400,000 front-line health care workers and the need for two doses three weeks apart, that won’t be enough for everyone.
In fact, at present, only about 5,800 initial doses are being distributed to four health care systems with the needed ultra-cold storage. (St. Charles Health System has said it expects 975 doses on Thursday and will begin vaccinations of staff early next week.)
Group 1 includes hospitals and urgent care facilities, skilled nursing facilities and their staff and residents. Then will come Group 2, other long-term care facilities, behavioral health, hospice and mobile crisis care among them. Group 3 involves outpatients in high-risk groups, followed by all other outpatients and public health facilities.
“We won’t get through it until January at the earliest, potentially later,” Allen said.
But he also noted that case numbers that were spiking a few weeks ago have plateaued in recent days, as “Oregonians have made tremendous sacrifices” that need to continue until vaccines are widely available and there’s “community immunity.”
Allen said the Moderna vaccine and the fact it doesn’t need ultra-cold storage, as the Pfizer vaccine does, is key for logistics to distribute the vaccine in more rural areas.
Toward the end of the online vaccinations/news conference, some who had gotten the shots were back on camera to say how they were doing so far.
“I just got the vaccine, complete with a Bugs Bunny-Looney Tunes bandage, and feel no ill effects at all,” Jeremy Howard of Legacy Emanuel said. “It was easy, just like the flu vaccine.”
News release from Gov. Kate Brown’s office:
Frontline Health Care Workers Receive First COVID-19 Vaccinations in Oregon
(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown held a press conference today commemorating the administration of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Oregon to frontline health care workers. The Governor was joined by Patrick Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), as well as frontline health care workers and representatives from Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, as well as Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario.
«This is the moment we have all been waiting for,» said Governor Brown. «We kick off this historic vaccine campaign in Oregon with our health care workers, who have been our first line of defense against COVID-19. Today they received the first vaccinations in our state. These heroes have poured everything they have into this fight. And to all our health care workers, we thank you.
«With these vaccinations, we finally can begin the long, steady process of turning the tide on the pandemic. But until we can achieve community levels of immunity, we all must stay the course and continue to practice the safety measures we know can make an impact and stop the spread of this virus. I am so grateful to the majority of Oregonians who are following the recommendations of our public health experts by physically distancing, wearing a mask and limiting gatherings.»
More information on vaccines is available at covidvaccine.oregon.gov.
A copy of the Governor’s remarks is available here.
A recording of today’s live-streamed press conference is available here.