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People who won't wear masks can still get vaccine

Do the people who refuse to wear a mask still qualify for the COVID-19 shot?

— Nancy, Central Point

The answer is yes, Nancy, people who refuse to wear a mask still qualify for a COVID-19 vaccination, said Jonathan Modie, Oregon Health Authority spokesman.

There is no law that prohibits those who refuse to wear a mask from getting a vaccine, he said.

“We want everyone who is willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so when it becomes available to them. The important thing to remember is that getting as many people as possible vaccinated will help us build ‘community immunity’ that protects our friends, neighbors, health care workers, frontline workers, older adults, those with underlying health conditions and the rest of society, and allows us to eventually snuff out this deadly virus,” Modie said.

COVID-19 vaccines aren’t yet available to the general public because there aren’t enough shots so far to reach everyone.

Oregon is prioritizing people who are most at risk and hardest hit, said OHA spokesperson Rudy Owens.

Last week, vaccinations started across Oregon for high risk hospital workers plus residents and staff members of long-term care facilities.

Those places already have rules in place for mask-wearing while on the job.

The second wave of vaccinations will be for essential workers, including teachers, bus drivers, food processors and other workers who keep society open and the economy moving.

The third wave of shots is for people with underlying health conditions and people older than 65, OHA said.

Vaccinating the general public will start after those initial waves.

Those shots will be delivered by the health care system in primary care offices, retail pharmacies and other traditional routes for receiving preventative care, Owens said.

Oregon currently has a requirement for mask-wearing inside publicly accessible buildings. If someone tried to visit a doctor’s office to get a shot and refused to wear a mask, for example, staff members could deny that person entry.

Hospitals and health care experts are urging everyone to keep following safety steps that slow the spread of the virus and reduce the strain on hospitals.

On many days this month, the number of open intensive care unit beds in all of Jackson County and Josephine County hospitals has been in the single digits.

“Vaccination will be the means to help us end the pandemic, but in the meantime, we continue to recommend safety measures to keep the virus from spreading: wear a mask, physically distance from others, wash your hands, avoid gatherings and stay home when you’re sick,” Owens said.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.