More than 1 million new people are being added early to the eligibility list for COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday, March 19.
The change means seasonal farm workers, food processing workers, adults over age 45 with qualifying underlying health conditions, pregnant women, homeless individuals, wildland firefighters and seniors in low-income or group housing in Umatilla and Morrow counties became eligible Monday, March 22.
President Joe Biden announced March 11 that he was directing states to lift all eligibility requirements for those 16 and older by May 1. Oregon had not planned on lifting all eligibility restrictions until July 1.
On Wednesday, March 17, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent a directive to all states that the May 1 date for lifting restrictions was not optional. OHA Director Pat Allen told state lawmakers that day that the directive was “binding” and “regulatory,” with noncompliance possibly affecting the shipment of future doses of vaccine to the state.
Brown on March 19 ordered many of the 530,000 people covered in the next eligibility group moved up from Monday, March 29, to March 22. OHA Director Pat Allen told state lawmakers on March 17 that Brown was considering moving up the date as a way to get the groups at least a short head start before opening the eligibility to all.
Under Brown’s new timeline, vaccinations can begin for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and food processing workers in counties where they are currently working.
People age 45-64 with underlying health conditions can get vaccinated in counties that can attest they have “largely” vaccinated those age 65 and older — something Umatilla and Morrow counties have both done.
Another 550,000 people who were to be eligible on May 1 have had their start date moved to April 19. Those categories include frontline workers as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, families in multigenerational households, and individuals age 16-44 with underlying conditions.
Vaccine providers have been told to use an honor system for determining who should get the shots. OHA has published a list of medical conditions that meet the standard. Those seeking the vaccination will not be asked to provide medical records or a doctor’s note, but will be asked to attest that they meet the guidelines.
Morrow County Health Department reacted quickly to the updated timeline, announcing new vaccine clinics for farmworkers and food processing workers in the county. Those will take place at the Sage Center in Boardman on Wednesday, March 24, from 1-8 p.m.; Thursday, March 25 from noon to 7 p.m.; Friday, March 26 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday, March 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 541-481-4200 to make an appointment.
In Umatilla County, vaccines continue to be available through Umatilla County Public Health, Good Shepherd Medical Center, Mirasol Family Health Center, Family Health Associates, Safeway, Walmart, BiMart, Yellowhawk Tribal Center, and other locations. Family Health Associates is advertising a walk-in clinic at Umatilla High School on Friday, April 2, from 3-7 p.m. for eligible individuals.
News Editor Jade McDowell contributed to this report.