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COVID-19 shots available in Rogue Valley for veterans 65 and older

Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics in White City has been vaccinating older veterans, opening a COVID-19 vaccination path for some seniors who have been largely blocked by state rules about who gets the limited shots first.

Oregon is prioritizing people involved in health care and education, plus residents and staff of nursing homes.

The state has said people 80 and older who don’t fall into those categories aren’t eligible for vaccination until Sunday — if there is enough COVID-19 vaccine available. State plans call for vaccinating people 75 and older starting Feb. 14, 70 and older starting Feb. 21 and 65 and older starting Feb. 28.

As a Veterans Affairs clinic, SORCC can follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, said Rhonda Haney, public affairs officer for SORCC.

The CDC recommends vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents first, then essential frontline workers such as teachers and firefighters along with people 75 and older. People age 65-74 come next.

SORCC is currently vaccinating veterans 65 and older who get health care through the VA. It’s also vaccinating staff members, Haney said.

“People have definitely been calling in wanting to receive the COVID-19 shot. We’re getting a high volume of calls from this age group,” she said.

CORRECTION: The phone number has been corrected in this article. Call 541-826-2111, extension 4440, to check on eligibility and make an appointment.

SORCC is not accepting walk-ins who haven’t scheduled a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, Haney said.

It also can’t give shots to veterans’ spouses at this time, she said.

Veterans 65 and older who aren’t receiving VA health care should register with SORCC to become eligible for vaccination.

SORCC has been reaching out to eligible veterans through letters and email, Haney said.

As COVID-19 shots become more available, she said, SORCC hopes to be able to vaccinate younger veterans.

“We’re currently doing veterans age 65 and older. Hopefully that will change and we’ll be able to expand to additional veterans very soon,” Haney said.

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has prioritized vaccinating teachers over senior citizens in an effort to get kids back in classrooms.

Seniors account for the majority of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in Oregon and across the nation.

In Oregon, slightly more than half of COVID-19-related deaths were among people living in nursing homes — a major reason why nursing home residents are high on the state’s vaccination priority list.

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

FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2020 file photo, prepared COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine syringes are seen at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill. The U.S. government is negotiating with Pfizer to acquire tens millions of additional vaccine doses in exchange for helping the pharmaceutical giant gain better access to manufacturing supplies. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)