EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLE
PeaceHealth officials are among healthcare professionals awaiting arrival of the vaccine. PeaceHealth has hospital facilities in Springfield, above, and Cottage Grove.
Lane County health officials say nearly 100,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be available to qualified residents this week, and a second dose will be available in January.
But, officials caution, the vaccine won’t be effective unless we can achieve herd immunity.
“The napkin math I saw was roughly 260,000 people” would need to be vaccinated in order to obtain herd immunity in the county – or 70% of people over 16-years-old – said Dr. Jim McGovern, PeaceHealth Oregon network vice president for medical affairs and COVID-19 incident commander.
“I think it’s going to be a little while before the community at large starts to see opportunity to get vaccinated … maybe February or March,” McGovern said.
“It is a hard truth that we can’t vaccinate everyone at once and bring the pandemic to a sudden close,” said Patrick Allen, director for the Oregon Health Authority. “That means Oregon will see more COVID-19 infections and more deaths.”
Through last week, the county has recorded 1,348 (+207 last week) all-time cases in Springfield; 152 (+24) in Creswell; 140 (+27) in Cottage Grove; and 32 (+two) in Pleasant Hill. As of Dec. 15, Lane County has 5,750 total cases; 55 hospitalizations; 13 intensive care patients; 464 infectious cases; and 77 deaths.
“The majority of Lane County outbreaks that we can track come from long-term care facilities and workplaces; between the two of them, it’s almost 78% of our overall cases,” said Jason Davis, public information officer for Lane County Health & Human Services in a briefing Tuesday.
Allen emphasized the need to wear masks, physically distance, avoid groups, and wash hands thoroughly.
“We together control how many more (deaths) there will be,” Allen said. “We’ve already been doing that over the past 10 months.” He said that by following the protocols, the state has reduced sickness and death in Oregon compared with most of the rest of the country.
“We have tragically lost more than 1,100 people in Oregon to COVID-19,” Allen said, “but if our death rate was the same as the median rate for the nation, we would already have lost over 2,000 more.”
The vaccine is initially two shots; for full effectiveness, you need to take both, McGovern said. “Whether you’ll have to take the shots annually, once every 10 years … across all vaccines there’s a wide range of how frequently you need them,” he said. “Influenza mutates fairly quickly and we get a new strain. I have not seen a definitive answer and I’m not sure that we know at this point in time how frequently the vaccine will need to be taken, what this virus is going to do and how the virus is going to behave.”
Front-line medical workers and those who live and work in long-term facilities will be among the first to receive the vaccinations. Davis said that 100% of Lane County’s skilled nursing facilities have enrolled to receive the vaccine.
An OHA vaccine advisory committee is working on the initial framework to define the essential workers who will be among the first to receive the vaccine, though Davis said that “the general framework is really those individuals who keep our society running. And that is a very broad definition … but that is the initial framework we’ve seen. Some examples are transit drivers, food delivery individuals and manufacturing, etc.”
Details are in planning stages, all agreed. “I’m not aware of how the community is going to get it, if it’ll be through their primary care physician clinics,” McGovern said, adding that he does not know if there will be an out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine.
Once more details are released, Lane County Public health will narrow down that list, and then distribute the vaccine to qualified workers, he said. How and when that distribution will occur is still unknown. “The realistic expectations are that we will probably see that in early 2021,” Davis said.
In the upcoming weeks, Davis expects to close gaps and uncertainty around who gets the vaccine and when it will be distributed, “so that when the vaccine does become available to our central worker population, we’re able to hit the ground running.”