In the face of angry elders upset over the governor's decision to prioritize teachers over them for COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Kate Brown has reversed course, announcing anyone over 65 can get a vaccine, starting Jan. 23.
The decision comes after the federal government issued guidance today that states should prioritize anyone over 65, along with a pledge to deliver additional vaccine doses this month.
"While this is an unexpected change in course from the federal government, receiving more vaccines is welcome news for states—and Oregon is ready to devote all resources necessary to ramp up distribution with our health care partners," said Brown in a statement.
Other states had already begun vaccinating older people, even as Brown called for waiting to deliver doses to a group that faces disproportionate risk from COVID-19. More than 3 out of 4 deaths in Oregon from COVID were of people over 70.
"The data clearly show that the older people are, the higher risk they face if they contract COVID-19. Given that older individuals are at a greater risk of death from COVID-19, we strongly urge you to ensure that Oregonians age 50 and older are prioritized to receive a vaccine," wrote Edward Brewington, volunteer state president of the AARP, in a Jan. 11 letter to the governor.
Brown has said her approach will be an effort to reach Oregonians equitably, but effectively reversed course from last week's decision to vaccinate teachers first.
"Now, more than ever, I am determined to ensure that communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 have access to a vaccine: Oregon's Black, Indigenous, tribal, Latino, Latina, and Latinx, Pacific Islander, and communities of color," she said in her statement today. "Reaching educators and individuals aged 65 and older from these communities is absolutely critical, as we strive to achieve equitable vaccine distribution in each phase of this process."
Her decision arrived on a day when Oregon announced 54 more deaths from COVID-19, a number that state health officials said resulted from slow record processing and reflected the holiday surge in cases. Many of the deaths date back to November.