Parents Hunt for Scarce Vaccination Appointments as Oregon Approves COVID Shots for Children

Pfizer’s vaccine shipments started landing in Oregon on Monday, but distributing them could take two weeks.

Go-karts, Oaks Park. (Brian Burk)

The first Pfizer shipments of COVID-19 vaccines intended for children ages 5-11 arrived in Oregon on Nov. 1 at a slow drip, setting off a headlong scramble for appointments by parents eager to resume some return to everyday life.

As of Wednesday evening, those appointments were hard to come by, with some physicians’ clinics booked until Nov. 17, and others asking parents to refrain from scheduling shots until a shipment schedule became clear.

For example: Sellwood Medical Clinic announced a children’s vaccination clinic at Oaks Park, to be held this weekend. It then posted a follow-up notice to its website: “The Drive-thru 5-11 Covid Vaccine schedule at Oaks Park will open WHEN WE KNOW THE VACCINES ARE GOING TO ARRIVE!” The clinic then warned it would delete appointments made prematurely. Appointments were filled by Nov. 2.

Oregon Health Authority spokesman Rudy Owens tells WW that Pfizer’s vaccine shipments started landing in Oregon on Monday, but distributing them could take two weeks.

“The initial supply of pediatric Pfizer vaccine is being delivered to vaccination sites directly from the factory this week and next, with deliveries continuing through Nov. 9,” Owens writes. “It will take about two weeks for vaccine to be shipped from the factory to sites across Oregon and then, where necessary, moved to smaller volume sites by health systems and redistribution hubs.”

The rush to access scarce vaccines follows Oregon officially greenlighting COVID-19 vaccinations for children on Nov. 3. OHA estimated that this decision expands eligibility to 330,000 kids in Oregon. The vaccine was found to be almost 91% effective in this age group.

“With today’s review by leading health experts,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, in a Wednesday press briefing, “Oregon parents and children can be confident in the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for their children.”

Health officials pledged to ensure that everyone who wants to get vaccinated can.

“There’s significantly more vaccine available for the 5-to-11 [year-old] population than there was for the adult population earlier this year,” said Dr. Kristen Dillon, senior adviser with the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID Response and Recovery Unit, “and we don’t expect to experience the same degree of scarcity.”

But she also noted that there is not an unlimited supply. The initial supply of vaccines is meant to last four to six weeks. The distribution of the vaccines is based on provider request, organization type, and regional needs. Tens of thousands of additional doses will be available every week.

More than 350 places, including pharmacies, hospitals, and school-based centers, will distribute the vaccine, but Dillon noted that “as with the introduction of any new eligible group for vaccination, we expect our health care system will not be able to accommodate all children who would like to get vaccinated within the first few days that they become eligible.”

Additionally, three major vaccination sites could begin operations next week in Clackamas, East County, and Hillsboro-Beaverton. The goal of these sites is to be open in the afternoon and evening and on weekends so that they are convenient for families. These sites will also offer booster shots.

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