Judy Tedrow, 78, receives her first dose of the Moderna Covid vaccine at Salem Health's Woodburn clinic on Thursday, Feb. 11 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Tens of thousands of Covid vaccines that were destined for Oregon this week are held up because of icy, snowy weather, making already scarce vaccination appointments even more difficult for Salem seniors to come by.

The scarcity will become more acute next week as Oregonians 70 and older become eligible for vaccines on Monday, Feb. 22, adding thousands more Salem residents to the line.

An order of 67,000 Moderna vaccines expected to arrive early this week had not shipped out of Memphis as of Wednesday night, said Jonathan Modie, Oregon Health Authority spokesman. It’s unclear whether the vaccines will arrive by the end of the week, he said.

That order accounts for two-thirds of the shots hospitals and health districts across the state had intended to administer to educators, health care workers and seniors this week.

The delay forced Salem Health to cancel scheduled vaccination appointments at its Polk County clinic at Western Oregon University on Wednesday.

Safeway and Albertsons pharmacies did not receive vaccine shipments this week, company spokeswoman Jill McGinnis said. That prevented local pharmacies from opening vaccination appointments.

Oregon’s shipment of Pfizer vaccine, about 34,000 doses this week, was not delayed, Modie said. That vaccine is typically sent to larger hospitals, including Salem Health, because it requires very cold storage that smaller clinics typically can’t provide.

Bill Fink, 75, who lives in south Salem said he’s waited weeks for his turn to get a shot. Fink and other Oregonians 75 and older living independently became eligible for the vaccination Monday.

“We’ve followed the development of the vaccines pretty much since last May and we were really looking forward to it,” Fink said.

He has multiple health conditions that place him at higher risk for a serious case of Covid.

“I tell my friends that I’m in the drop-dead demographic,” he said.

But like many seniors, Fink has been unable to find available appointments through Salem Health or local pharmacies.

He and his wife are currently staying with a friend in Lyons because the power has been out at their Salem home for nearly a week. Fink said he expected the poor weather might delay appointments. But he would have found a way to make it to a clinic if he’d been able to secure a spot, he said.

“If it was here and we could get it, it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said. “It’s just been a nightmare.”

Covid vaccinations reported in Marion County dipped following a Feb. 12 ice storm that left much of the county without power for days. (Screenshot from Oregon Health Authority data dashboard on Feb. 18)

More Marion and Polk County residents have seen vaccination appointments canceled over the past week because of icy weather and power outages. Salem Health canceled about 500 weekend appointments in Woodburn and Salem following the ice storm.

A vaccination clinic the Marion County Health Department had planned to run this week in Woodburn was also canceled because public health agencies and Woodburn Ambulance were stretched too thin responding to the aftereffects of the storm.

“We’ll get back on track to start those back up when they have capacity, hopefully next week,” Marion County Public Health Director Katrina Rothenberger told county commissioners during their weekly meeting on Wednesday.

Vaccinators have several days to report shots to the state, so the full impact of the delays isn’t yet clear. But the region, as well as Oregon, has so far reported far fewer shots into arms.

Before the storm, Marion County was recording about 2,000 vaccines administered daily on weekdays, and several hundred most Saturdays and Sundays. Last weekend, just 130 Marion County residents were inoculated, according to data from Oregon Health Authority. On Monday, the county recorded just 147 doses, though more will likely be added to that total.

Statewide, Oregon vaccinators gave about 7,000 shots last weekend, compared with 37,600 shots the previous weekend.

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

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