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State's haphazard vaccine policies continue

Oregon’s performance in distributing COVID-19 vaccines has been haphazard from the start, with poor planning and even worse communication. Now, after Gov. Kate Brown decided to ignore federal guidelines on who should get vaccinated first, she has decided to redirect vaccines from communities with successful vaccine roll-outs — such as Jackson County — to those that are struggling, such as the Portland area.

That’s not likely to make Southern Oregon and other areas feel appreciated or valued by the state. And the governor runs the risk of appearing to punish counties such as this one that have conducted successful mass vaccination events.

Brown on Thursday ordered 32,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines redirected to the Portland area instead of going to other parts of the state. Health care workers in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties have not been able to be vaccinated because of a shortage of doses. Meanwhile, other counties have been administering vaccine to people further down the priority list because they had doses available after inoculating health care workers and teachers.

The vaccine is perishable, and must be kept frozen. Once thawed, it needs to be administered quickly or it becomes unusable. Local hospital officials have said no doses have been discarded here, but that means some were given to people lower on the priority list to make sure no doses went to waste.

There is nothing wrong with that, but it angers people who feel left out. That’s understandable, and it’s why the governor and state health officials must be as transparent as possible about how the vaccine is being distributed.

It doesn’t help that on the same day the governor ordered vaccines redirected, the Oregon Health Authority said it will stop reporting the details of COVID-19 deaths beyond raw numbers. Since March, the agency has been reporting age, home county, place of death, date of infection, date of death and the existence of underlying conditions for each fatality, but will now stop doing that because it was stretching staff too thin. That’s not an acceptable excuse. The public cannot evaluate the status of the pandemic and judge their own risk without information.

Everyone wants a chance to get protected from the coronavirus, and fighting over places in line serves no one’s interest.

The state should have produced a clear, understandable plan before the vaccine became available, and communicated that to the public. Instead, the state’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations on who should get the vaccine next after front-line workers, didn’t even hold its first meeting until this month.

Now, we are the only state that has chosen to vaccinate teachers before seniors, so schools can reopen more safely. We have said that makes sense, as long as doses are available to seniors with a delay of only a few weeks.

The governor’s order on Thursday redistributing vaccines doesn’t inspire much confidence.