Salem Health began a Covid vaccine clinic at the state fairgrounds on Jan. 7 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Seniors, teachers and other school and child care employees can receive a Covid vaccine in Oregon starting Jan. 23, Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday, weeks earlier than state plans initially called for.

The change will render more than 750,000 Oregonians eligible for vaccination, a significant increase over the current pool of health care workers, nursing home residents and first responders who are being vaccinated now.

Brown announced the expansion after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday all Americans 65 and older are eligible for vaccination. The federal government also said it would send all vaccines in its possession to states rather than holding some doses in reserve.

To date, about 108,000 Oregonians have been vaccinated, according to Oregon Health Authority. About 7,000 of those have received both doses of the vaccine needed for full effect. Marion County has vaccinated 10,679 people as of Jan. 12, giving it one of the highest vaccination rates of Oregon counties.

The state is still short of a goal Brown set to vaccinate 12,000 people per day by Jan. 18. Oregon Health Authority recorded 10,735 vaccines administered on Jan. 8, its highest one-day total, and has reported about 7,000 vaccines administered daily this week.

Brown's statement said details about how Oregonians over 65 and educators will be able to seek vaccination would be announced Friday.

“If you are an Oregonian who is newly eligible for vaccination, I am asking for your patience. Please, do not call your doctor’s office or health care provider with questions about when you can be vaccinated,” Brown said in a statement. “Today’s news arrived with no advance notice from the federal government. Oregon health care providers are working as fast as humanly possible to shift their vaccine distribution plans to meet this sudden change in national guidance.”

The change could help speed the return to in-person school for Oregon’s largest districts, including Salem-Keizer, where teacher unions have called for a vaccine for educators before regular classroom instruction resumes.

Brown had set a target date of Feb. 15 for more schools around the state to return to classrooms. But even with the quicker timeline, most Oregon teachers will not be vaccinated by that date. The two vaccines approved for use in the U.S. require two shots, spaced either three or four weeks apart.

Brown’s announcement covers school employees in kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as child care and preschool educators and workers.

The Salem-Keizer School District is discussing how it will make vaccination available to employees with the Marion County Health Department, district spokeswoman Sylvia McDaniel said.

Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope said last week the county was starting preparations for vaccinating teachers as well.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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