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

It’s about to become a lot easier to get vaccinated against Covid in Salem.

Gov. Kate Brown on Friday said Oregon would speed up the timeline for vaccinating frontline workers and adults under 45 with health conditions, making them eligible for a shot on April 5.

And with federal shipments growing, the Salem area will see thousands more Covid vaccines available next week.

That includes 9,360 Pfizer first doses destined for Salem Health’s clinic at the state fairgrounds, according to data from Oregon Health Authority, up from a weekly allocation of 5,850 first doses in past weeks.

Local pharmacies, who have vaccines shipped to them directly from the federal government, will also receive more doses starting next week, OHA director Pat Allen said during a news conference Friday.

The Salem Health clinic remains the largest vaccination site in the Salem area, but people seeking a vaccine can also schedule an appointment at pharmacies, clinics and events around the region. A list of vaccine providers is available on health department websites for Marion County and Polk County.

Salem Health reported last week it was seeing fewer people book appointments at its clinic, but the pace has picked back up again after Marion County expanded eligibility for a shot, spokeswoman Lisa Wood said.

On March 22, farm and agricultural workers, food processing workers, wildland firefighters and adults 45 and older with underlying health conditions became eligible for shots in both Marion and Polk counties.

Wood said Salem Health would add staffing to the fairgrounds clinic to distribute the extra doses, but hours of operation would remain 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with new appointment slots posted online at noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Oregon still expects to make all residents 16 and older eligible for a Covid vaccine May 1. But counties can apply to open eligibility to all on April 26 if they can document efforts to vaccinate other groups and show they will have appointments available, Allen said.

The Salem Health website lists the type of Covid vaccine people can expect to receive at their appointment - generally Pfizer at the fairgrounds location and Moderna at sites in Polk County and Woodburn.

“Individuals can expect this is the vaccine type they will receive at their scheduled appointment; however, they should confirm upon checking in for their vaccination appointment if they have medically-necessary requests,” Wood said in an email.

Both vaccines require two doses and are highly effective at preventing severe cases of Covid, but they do have slight differences. The Pfizer vaccine is the only shot authorized for 16 and 17-year-olds.

Public health officials recommend people get the first vaccine they’re eligible for regardless of type.

The Marion County Health Department will receive 900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine next week, which requires only one shot. The county will use most of them at clinics targeted for specific groups of people like farm workers and homeless individuals, spokeswoman Jenna Wyatt said.

Brown’s announcement Friday of the accelerated vaccination timeline means grocery store workers, restaurant employees, bus drivers and hundreds of thousands of other workers across Oregon will be able to get a shot two weeks earlier than previously announced. The April 5 group includes all essential workers as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Allen said Oregon still expects every adult who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of June.

Oregon has lagged behind most other states in vaccinating seniors, who became eligible for shots later than in most other states. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to Covid and account for the vast majority of deaths from the virus both in Oregon and nationwide.

To date, 66% of Oregonians 65 and older have been vaccinated against Covid, Allen said.

To date, 78,964 Marion County residents have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, about 23% of the county’s population. In Polk County, 22,784 people have received at least one shot, or 27% of the county’s population.

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

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