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Greater urgency is essential on vaccine effort

As a concerned Jackson County resident (and also as a former vice president of R&D for a Pfizer subsidiary in the health care industry) I appreciated reading your editorial opinion in the Jan. 5 Mail Tribune / Ashland Tidings regarding the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in Oregon, however I believe that the opinion you state is far less urgent than is needed.

Vaccine distribution and administration in Oregon as a whole and in Jackson County specifically is being completely mismanaged and the roll-out has been disastrous. Print and digital media need to hold public health officials responsible for extremely poor planning and execution of the vaccine roll-out.

As you know, Oregon as a state is among the worst in the country in vaccine distribution and administration; little more than a quarter of available vaccine doses in the state have been administered and here in Jackson County, vaccine administration over the past week has come to an almost complete halt. Health care providers and the County Health Department have had many months to plan the vaccine roll-out and yet we appear to be stumbling at the starting gate. Thousands of needless hospitalizations and deaths will occur because of the slow pace of vaccination, which at the current pace will take over six years to complete in Jackson County.

Oregon will not be able to accept additional vaccine shipments because of storage requirement capacity when new shipments are ready to go out and “our” shipments will go to other states who have already depleted their supply — this will be a use-it-or-lose-it situation. In addition, the negative economic impact on the region from closed businesses and lack of tourism will continue to be felt and in particular being unable to fully open schools and colleges because of lack of vaccination will continue to have a profound impact on our young people. This is truly a matter of life and death.

Here are some facts:

  • 2,400 vaccine doses administered in Jackson County over 20 days or 120 per day since December 15.
  • Individuals needed to be vaccinated in Jackson County to achieve herd immunity total approximately 150,000, or 300,000 doses (two per person)
  • Time to complete vaccination in Jackson County: 2,500 days or 6.8 years.
  • Rate needed to achieve the national target of fall 2021 for vaccination is approximately 1,100 per day or nine times the current rate.
  • Each day the county fails to achieve this rate, it falls farther behind and the rate required increases.
  • No entity has been contracted within Jackson County to administer the vaccine to the general public. Health care providers are only able to provide vaccine to their own employees. Care home providers can get vaccine administered to residents by Walgreens and CVS through their contract with the federal government, but without a contract to vaccinate the general public from the state of Oregon there will be no vaccinations outside of health care workers and care home residents.

Again, print and digital media need to hold public health officials responsible for extremely poor planning and execution of the vaccine roll-out. Please restate your editorial opinion to reflect the extreme urgency of the situation and take Mark Orndoff, Department Director of Jackson County Health and Human Services and Dr. Jim Shames, Health Officer to task demanding they provide a plan to increase daily vaccination rates to allow all county residents to receive COVID-19 vaccination in 2021.

Neil Holland lives in Ashland.