ONTARIO, Oregon — More people in Malheur County can now get vaccinated after a successful push from several Oregon counties.
“Back in March when we were seeing eligibility opened up to different age groups based on five-year increments every week. Every Monday it would open up to new-age groups from age 80 down to 65. We would see couples one would be eligible and one wouldn’t and that was frustrating to them that they couldn’t come to the same clinic and be vaccinated together,” said Erika Harmon, spokesperson for the Malheur County Health Department.
On March 31, the Governor’s Office approved the county’s request to have vaccines available to any Oregonians in phase 1B group 7.
In a statement Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe said:
“This is welcomed news from the state. This week, for the first time in over a month, Malheur County’s test positivity and case rates showed an increase in the two-week report released by the Governor’s Office. That’s not something we want to see become a trend, and the only way we’re going to keep both of those rates down – and Malheur County open – is through widespread immunity.”
Harmon said the focus is to vaccinate those that are now eligible.
“There is more vaccine in the county than we have people to administer it to at the moment., It’s a great problem to have. It would be much more efficient our efforts to vaccinate the public in Malheur County if we can vaccinate a greater population,” Harmon said.
Group 7 includes people between the ages of 16 and 44 with underlying health conditions and people living in multi-generational households.
“People from three or more generations living in a home such as an elder might live with a parent or grandchild. We know that there are families in households that are larger than the average 2.7 people, which is average for Malheur County so a larger household would also come with more risk of exposure,” Harmon said.
The health department is expanding hours at its vaccination clinics to keep up with demand.
“We know that phase two is coming up at the end of them a month, and we’ll be among the counties that will request eligibility for all of our population. I believe April 29 is the earliest that we can request to have that open and we’ll certainly be requesting that, otherwise it would be May 1 for the general population in Oregon,” Harmon said.