Lane County Public Health officials provided a COVID-19 vaccine rollout update at the March 2 Lane County Commissioners meeting. With increased vaccine distribution led by the Biden administration and the recently FDA-approved Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, the county will have more shots available.
In addition to increased vaccine doses, the county reported that COVID-19 cases have been decreasing and data is nearing the “moderate risk” threshold set by the Oregon Health Authority.
Although the county is seeing more people vaccinated, Lane County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky said people are frustrated they haven’t been vaccinated yet.
“We have more people who are demanding the vaccine than we have supply, so the appointments are going quickly,” Mokrohisky said, adding that the county is prioritizing seniors now after vaccinating public school staff. “Our overarching priority is to get vaccines out as quickly as possible and not waste any doses.”
Lane County Public Health Incident Commander Steve Adams said the number of people who qualify for COVID-19 vaccines (65 years and up) total 77,137. But the county has received more than 20,000 vaccines. Adams added that OHA told the county a few weeks ago that 6,200 is the floor number of vaccines that it would receive through mid-March. “For the first time since vaccine rollout began, that gave us something bigger than just a one-week planning horizon,” he added.
The county should be receiving more vaccines soon thanks to an emergency authorization of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the Federal Drug Administration, as well as increased mobilization of vaccines by the Biden administration.
Adams said Lane County will receive 2,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines on March 3. Lane County Public Health will acquire 900 doses and 11 Bi-Marts will each get 100, Adams said. These vaccines are one-shot and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures — unlike the Moderna and Pfizer which require ultracold temperatures.
On Feb. 27, the FDA issued an emergency utilization authorization of the vaccine, reporting that it was about 67 percent effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 cases that occurred at least 14 days after vaccination and 66 percent effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 at least 28 days after vaccination. The FDA added that the vaccine was approximately 77 percent effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 85 percent effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination.
On Feb. 2, the Biden administration announced that it would increase vaccine supplies to states. Adams said the pharmacies that participate in this program — Costco and 18 Safeway locations — received about 100 weekly doses because of this federal mandate.
Adams said that the Biden administration will also deploy vaccines to community health centers throughout the U.S. This would be about 500 doses weekly for all health centers county-wide. “It’s a wonderful way to get doses into our underserved populations,” he added.
Lane County has so far vaccinated or started the vaccination program for about 56,000 people, Adams said.
According to OHA, the next group is eligible no later than March 29. This includes adults 45 to 64 years old with one or more underlying health conditions, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, food processing workers, people living in low-income senior housing, people experiencing homelessness, people displaced by wildfires and wildland firefighters. Frontline workers as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are eligible no later than May 1. Adults 45 to 64 years old are eligible by June 1, and Oregonians 16 and older can get a vaccine by July 1.
On Feb. 28, Lane’s restrictions eased as it went from “extreme” to “high” risk. For large counties like Lane, Adams said the threshold to become “high” is 200 cases per 100,000 residents with a testing positivity rate of 10 percent. But recent data shows the county’s cases are declining, Adams added.
“We’re at 112 cases per 100,000 and actually moving closer to the threshold of moderate risk,” he said. “The next threshold down is 100 per 100,000 and testing threshold of five to eight percent. We’re currently at 1.8 percent in terms of our testing.”
According to the OHA, in a “medium risk” county, restaurants, indoor recreation and entertainment can be at 50 percent capacity and outdoor entertainment is capped at 150 people.