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Vaccine shortage will limit Expo event

A large drive-thru vaccination event at the Jackson County Expo will probably cover health care workers, but not educators or senior citizens, because of a federal shortage of vaccines.

The event is planned from Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 21-23.

Beginning Monday, those people who are eligible in the Phase 1-A category as determined by the Oregon Health Authority can identify their interest in receiving vaccination by visiting asante.org.

Asante, Jackson County Public Health, the National Guard and other community partners are cooperating to stage the event.

They had originally hoped to vaccinate health care workers, educators and people 65 and older.

But state and local officials learned Thursday that federal government plans to boost vaccine shipments to states are falling through because of a shortage of vaccines.

General Gustave Perna of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort said in a Thursday group phone call to Gov. Kate Brown and others there is no federal reserve of doses and Oregon is already receiving a full allocation of vaccines, state officials announced Friday morning.

Brown was told earlier this week the federal government would release a reserve of vaccines. That prompted her to announce vaccinations would open up for educators and older people beginning Jan. 23.

Organizers of the vaccination event in Jackson County are scrambling to adapt to the news there likely won’t be enough extra shots to include educators and seniors.

“We understand how frustrating and confusing it’s been for people — especially those who fall into the expanded categories the governor laid out,” said Jackson County Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames.

Shames said local officials are continuing to push for vaccinations for educators and seniors.

“We’re going to continue to work and advocate for that group. But for the time being, this particular event is going to be focused on those in stage 1A so that we can finish that out and be prepared to vaccinate the larger community when there’s enough vaccine available,” he said.

Organizers of the drive-thru vaccination event in Jackson County hope to vaccinate 5,000 people in the state’s priority group 1A, which includes health care workers, EMTs, home health care workers, pharmacists, hospital janitors and others who could be exposed to COVID-19 on the job.

Vaccinations for the 1A group have been underway since mid-December.

There are an estimated 20,000 people in that category in Jackson County, according to Tanya Phillips, health promotion program manager for Jackson County Public Health.

The news that Jackson County would not receive a boost in its allocation of vaccines from the federal government is disappointing, said Holly Nickerson, vice president of quality and patient safety for Asante.

But she said Asante is doing everything it can to vaccinate people as soon as possible.

“This is vital. We recognize that for our community to move on, we need to get as much vaccine out as possible,” Nickerson said.

In addition to helping with the upcoming drive-thru event, Asante has been vaccinating 500 people a day, seven days a week, through its ongoing vaccination clinics, she said.

The National Guard will help in a variety of ways at the event, from delivering shots to helping with traffic control and paperwork. Participants should fill out their paperwork, which will become available Monday at asante.org, before arriving in order to speed up the process.

People will be given shots while sitting in their vehicles, then will go to an area to be observed for at least 15 minutes for any adverse reactions.

A small number of people have experienced severe allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, especially those who have a history of severe allergic reactions.

Potential mild side effects of the vaccine, including a sore arm, fever and aches, are signs the body’s immune system is ramping up to create immunity against COVID-19, health officials said.

Josephine County plans to hold a large vaccination event Sunday and Monday, Jan. 24-25, at the Josephine County Fairgrounds. Organizers hope to vaccinate 3,000 people.

Josephine County has about 7,000 people in the state’s 1A priority group. If there is enough vaccine, Josephine County may be able to vaccinate some educators, said Josephine County Public Health Director Michael Weber.

Even if people are eligible for the vaccine, not everyone wants it. Some people are not interested in getting the vaccine at all, while others want to wait and see what happens to others who get the vaccine first, Weber said.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are at least 94% effective at preventing COVID-19 after people receive a first shot followed by a booster shot three to four weeks later, according to the companies that make them.

People who participate in the Jackson and Josephine county drive-thru clinics will receive a card showing the date they were vaccinated. They’ll get information on the vaccination they received and how to set up an appointment for the booster shot, Nickerson said.

If vaccine supplies start running low, there could be potential delays on getting second shots.

However, Shames said the window of time for getting the second shot is fairly broad, and the second vaccination can be delayed for a few weeks.

People who are in quarantine, who have an active COVID-19 infection, or are pregnant should not attend the drive-thru vaccination clinic for phase 1A workers.

People who are at risk of having a severe reaction to a vaccine should book an appointment at one of the smaller vaccination clinics being held in the community.

The ongoing smaller clinics for phase 1A workers are through:

Asante — Schedule an appointment by visiting asante.org/covid-19/vaccine-clinic.

Providence — Schedule an appointment by emailing Workplacehealthservices@providence.org.

Jackson County Public Health — Schedule an appointment by visiting jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/Community-Resources/jackson-county-public-health-covid-19-vaccine-appointments.

Children and Adolescents Clinic — Schedule an appointment or ask for more information by emailing COVIDvaccine@cacdocs.com.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.