Agnes Tsai draws up a dose of the Pfizer vaccine during a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Oregon State Fairgrounds on Thursday, Jan. 28. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Oregon will make all residents 16 and older eligible for a Covid vaccine on May 1, Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said Wednesday, speeding up by about two months the timeline the state had previously planned for inoculations.
Allen announced the change in an interview on Oregon Public Broadcasting's "Think Out Loud" program. He cautioned not everyone eligible will be able to secure an appointment immediately.
"That does not mean they're going to get a vaccine on May 1," Allen said on Think Out Loud.
The announcement comes after the Biden administration last week directed states to make adults eligible for a shot by May 1. Following that directive, state health officials said they would wait to move up Oregon's timeline until it was clear the federal government had secured enough vaccines to make the more aggressive schedule feasible.
"We are following up with the administration for more specifics about when vaccine shipments to states will increase, but in a briefing with governors earlier this week, it was clear the White House has worked hard to secure additional vaccine supplies for states in the coming weeks," the Oregon Health Authority said in a statement.
The change means millions of Oregonians will be able to receive a shot sooner than expected. Currently, about 877,000 people statewide have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, including about 68,000 in Marion County and 20,000 in Polk County, according to data from OHA.
It's not yet clear whether Oregonians who were scheduled to become eligible for a shot before the general public will have earlier access to vaccines.
Currently, adults aged 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions, wildland firefighters, food processing and agricultural workers are scheduled to become eligible on March 29.
Younger adults with underlying health conditions and other essential workers, including grocery store employees, had been scheduled to become eligible May 1.
"We will continue to center equity in all of our vaccine distribution efforts, whether that means ensuring that seniors, people with underlying conditions, frontline workers and Oregonians most vulnerable to COVID-19 have the opportunity for vaccinations prior to May 1 - or after May 1, working with local health partners to ensure these priority groups continue to have access to appointments," the Oregon Health Authority said in its statement.