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Local vaccine supplies dry up

A vaccine drought has slowed the COVID-19 immunization rollout in Jackson County to a trickle.

A major first-dose vaccination event was held at the Jackson County Expo last month, but local health officials can’t say when the next big event will take place.

“We were informed that toward the end of the month or the beginning of March we should see an increase,” said Tanya Phillips, health promotion program manager for Jackson County Public Health.

Last week, Jackson County Health distributed 1,300 first doses to local clinics for patients 80 and older, the age group that now qualifies for the vaccine in Oregon.

The clinics are Community Health, La Clinica, DaVita, Valley Family Practice, Southern Oregon Internal Medicine, Rheumatology Clinic and Ashland Family Practice. To qualify for a vaccination at the clinics, you have be a patient. La Clinica also is offering vaccines to uninsured people, people who have no doctor, and anyone who speaks only Spanish.

Southern Oregon Internal Medicine in Medford will hold a five-hour drive-thru vaccination event Saturday, but only for current patients who schedule at 541-282-0620.

A vaccination event will be held at The Expo this week, but only for second doses of the vaccine. No first doses will be available.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses, with the second being stronger. Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine is expected to be available in Oregon soon, and it requires a single dose.

Phillips said that if the supply is sufficient, the county could handle up to 5,000 shots a day.

She said the county is not keeping any first doses in reserve, though it has kept second doses ready for this week’s vaccination event.

The federal government this week announced plans to send 1 million doses to 6,500 pharmacies in the U.S., including Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Walmart, Costco, Kroger and Publix. Eventually, the Biden administration plans to send vaccines out to 40,000 pharmacies in the U.S.

On Thursday Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Biden administration’s health advisor, predicts vaccines will be available to all adults in April.

Both CVS and Walgreens have announced they will be offering vaccines, but not in Oregon yet.

CVS will vaccinate in 11 states, including California. Walgreens plans to vaccinate in 15 states, mostly in the East, with New Mexico being the furthest West.

The county is working with Fred Meyer, Albertsons and Safeway, but they all indicate they don’t have any vaccines available and can’t accept appointments at this time, according to their websites.

Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies in Oregon anticipate receiving 11,500 doses this week that will be distributed throughout Oregon, so supplies will be limited.

Signups for vaccinations are expected later this week at www.albertsons.com/COVID-19 or www.safeway.com/COVID-19.

Costco in Central Point is one of 13 in the state that will be offering vaccines.

However, supplies of the vaccines at any particular location are expected to be limited.

Many of the retail locations require signing up through the company website, but many older Jackson County residents have limited or no internet in their homes.

Even big organizations have noticed the supply of vaccine hasn’t kept up with demand.

Lauren Van Sickle, spokesman for Asante, said her organization doesn’t have any first doses available.

“We expected some this week, but we haven’t gotten them,” she said Wednesday.

The last time Asante received doses was Feb. 1, but those were for the second shot.

“The last time we received the first doses was Jan. 14,” she said.

Asante partnered with other health organizations to participate in giving 7,200 people the vaccine at The Expo Jan. 20-22.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, 21,282 Jackson County residents have received at least one shot, representing about 10% of the local population. Of those, 6,889 have been fully vaccinated.

Jackson County has a slightly lower per-capita vaccination rate than Multnomah County and some other counties in the northern part of the state, but most counties have given about 10% of their population at least the first dose, according to OHA.

The state health authority was unable to provide any additional information about the near-term availability of vaccines, particularly at local clinics that serve lots of older patients.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

This July 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a vial of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. AP file photo