Douglas County has one of the lowest per capita vaccination rates in the state.

For total vaccines given, Douglas County was in 12th place among Oregon counties Thursday at 10,890, according to the Oregon Health Authority, though it is the 9th biggest county in the state. Counties with higher total vaccinations included Jackson, Lane, Deschutes, Linn, Benton, Polk, Marion, Yamhill, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington.

About 9.7% of Douglas County residents have received a vaccine. Only four of Oregon’s 36 counties — Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla and Columbia — have lower per capita rates, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s statistics as of Thursday. Josephine County is just slightly ahead, at 9.74%.

The rest are above 10%. Wheeler, an oddball small county with 30.8% of its total population of 1,438 people vaccinated, leads the pack.

The challenge is that up to this point, the state hasn’t been distributing vaccines based on population, Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said in an interview Wednesday. And that’s meant Douglas County residents have gotten the short end of the stick.

But Dannenhoffer said the situation is about to improve dramatically for Douglas County.

Douglas County has received disproportionately small allotments of vaccine doses from the state primarily because the state favored shipping vaccines to large, well-connected hospital systems in other counties like Peace Health in Lane County and Providence in Portland. Those hospitals could offer mass clinics reaching larger segments of the population, Dannenhoffer said.

Deschutes County’s St. Charles Bend hospital received 17,000 vaccines one weekend, while Douglas County received just 1,000 on the same weekend.

“So St. Charles had a big event and they were able to go through many of the 1a, some of the teachers and some of the seniors at a time when we were just starting on the teachers,” Dannenhoffer said.

CHI Mercy Medical Center is a big fish in Roseburg’s small pond, but its parent nonprofit Catholic Health Initiatives operates a hospital in only one other Oregon city, Pendleton. So it didn’t receive the large distributions from the state that other hospital systems did, he said.

Dannenhoffer said he’s been a “burr in the saddle” of state officials, insisting that Douglas County receive its fair share.

“Every time I call back, they say ‘Bob you’re right, we’re going to fix this,’” he said.

Dannenhoffer said he’s been assured by state officials that the county is about to catch up and begin receiving its fair share of doses, starting this week.

He said the county expected to receive 3,600 doses by the end of the week. That’s a big boost for a program that had as of Wednesday received just 6,500 vaccines.

Over the next few weeks, Douglas County expects to receive 2,500 first doses per week plus between 1,000 and 2,500 second doses. That’s a total of 3,500 to 5,000 doses a week.

For the senior population, the doses will now come in on a per capita basis. Since Douglas County has 3.9% of the state’s senior population, it will receive 3.9% of the state’s available doses for that group plus some extra vaccines to make up for the county having been shorted in the past.

The 10,890 vaccine figure listed by the Oregon Health Authority for Douglas County includes the 6,500 vaccines shipped to Local Public Health, but also another 4,000 sent to Mercy.

Another 3,000 vaccines sent by the federal government directly to the Roseburg VA Medical Center aren’t even included in the health authority statistic. Neither are the unknown and unreported number of vaccines given to nursing home patients and staff through the federal pharmacy program.

Once the state is distributing vaccines more evenly, that still leaves the county with the ongoing federal vaccine shortages.

As was illustrated so clearly last week, when storms across much of the country halted vaccine shipments, it’s the federal government that sends the vaccines to the states in the first place. Oregon can’t ship vaccines to its counties that it doesn’t have.

And even without bad weather, the doses received from the feds have been just a fraction of those needed to meet the demand. That’s not just a problem here, but everywhere.

Dannenhoffer is optimistic that situation is being resolved as well.

“People need to be patient for six or eight weeks. We will definitely get there,” he said.

Once Douglas County receives a new vaccine shipment, Dannenhoffer said it distributes the vaccinations to local vaccinators the following day. The vaccines then are delivered into people’s arms within five days.

There’s no shortage of people who want them.

“Right now, we have far more demand than supply, but we think come summertime we may well have more supply than demand,” he said.

He hopes demand continues to increase, though. Once 65% to 75% of county residents are immune — either because they’ve had the disease or because they’ve had the vaccinations — we will have reached herd immunity. That’s the point at which it’s really hard for the illness to spread.

Despite the vaccine shortages the county has faced, Dannenhoffer said he is grateful to have a vaccine at all just one year into the pandemic. The fact that it is so effective and so safe is also amazing, he said.

“Recognize the bumps in the road of not having enough, weather delays and whatever, is life,” he said.

“That stuff will happen and we’ll get there. And I’m seeing the possibility of a very different September 2021 than we had in September 2020,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

React to this story:

7
0
1
1
6

Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

Recommended for you

(16) comments

American

Mike, I'm just noting a political reality that could possibly have been a motivating factor in why the state chose to use the criteria they did. Politics certainly played a part in Cuomo's decisions in how he handled things in NY, didn't it? Your statement about DPHN not accepting any deliveries of vaccine doses for a month after MMC received it's 1st of 4 deliveries, does not address the fact that the total amount of vaccine DPHN received (6,500) plus the total MMC received (4,000) is still less than what the state should have sent, regardless of the timing of deliveries. If it is true that DPHN refused to accept vaccine for a month, then that would be an interesting story to follow up on, Carissa...what does DPHN have to say about that? What was their reason, if that is indeed true. I don't rule out ineptitude, or even incompetence, on the part of DPHN. A lot of counties and states were slow from the get-go on getting up to speed on this, partly because there were unknown factors involving the virus, but largely, I think because our Public Health System has been gutted over the years, especially on the county level, to be pretty much useless, as a functioning, getting things done entity. It's pretty much just a government administrative body now. Tells others what to do, but doesn't actually do the boots-on-the-ground stuff. I've certainly seen a decrease in the amount of services provided here, over the years. It's not surprising they weren't prepared for managing this crisis well.

st paddy

the douglas county commissioners and dr dannenhoffer couldnt pour urine out of a boot with the instructions on the sole.

Mike

It's more like the rest of us have been punished for the political agendas of our right leaning county leaders and doctors. I say that even though I lean right myself.

American

I guess our punishment (for being a majority Republic county and having a representative like Dallas Heard, et al) is over now. Salem probably figured, with the recent spike in cases here recently, they'd better get on the ball and change distribution criteria soon, lest they be accused of using tactics that don't make any sense, like Cuomo did in NY.

Mike

That must be it. Punishment for Republicans. It couldn't be that DPHN wasn't willing to accept vaccine doses for a month after Mercy Medical Center's first of four deliveries.

CitizenJoe

The Quibbler wishes to note: there is no short end of the stick. I'm not sure whether this phrase is a corruption of "drawing the short stick" or whether "short" is a substitute for uh, scat. Or another, similar, four-letter word.

Mike

Nearly 2,500 vaccine doses have been administered in Douglas County over the past week according to the Oregon Health Authority, which is Douglas County's highest weekly number. This occurred even though DPHN previously claimed in their press releases they hadn't received any vaccine for a week and wouldn't receive any the second week because of the storm.

NJ

Mike, you're a delight. You are a one-man, starboard leaning, Oversight Committee. More folks need to Ask Questions, Demand Answers, and Expect Better Leadership.

Mike

Not only was DPHN making excuses for their shoddy vaccine roll-out, they resorted to pre-excuses because they know most people won't notice.

CitizenJoe

This is good news. It is also not the time to relax; per The Guardian this morning:

Dr Rochelle Walensky: 'Now is not the time to relax restrictions'

Despite a promising decline in Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations over the last several weeks, Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned of a “very concerning shift in the trajectory”.

“The latest data suggest that these declines may be stalling, potentially leveling off at a very high number,” Walensky said, noting that the declines followed the deadliest and worst surge of the year-long pandemic.

She said cases have been ticking upward over the past three days and that the most recent seven-day average is slightly higher than the seven-day average earlier this week.

The data may be starting to reflect the impact of some of the virus variants, Walensky said. The CDC estimates that the B117 variant currently accounts for 10% of new cases in the US.

The agency, she said, is “sounding the alarm” about the spread of variants.

“Things are tenuous,” she said. “Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”

Mike

Douglas County Public Health Officer Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer again misleads the public when he says, “Previously, Douglas County had been left behind in getting our fair share of COVID-19 vaccine doses from the state, compared with other counties.”

The real reason Douglas County is one of the lowest vaccinated counties in Oregon is because Douglas County leadership, DPHN and Dr. Dannenhoffer were remiss in their vaccination duty for at least the first month vaccines were being distributed to counties. Dr. Dannenhoffer failed to mention;

1. Mercy Medical Center was the first in the state to received 795 doses of Pfizer vaccine on December 16, but took at least 17 days to administer those doses.

2. For a month after vaccines were being distributed to other Oregon counties, Douglas County press releases said “please don’t call us” if you have questions about vaccines.

3. For a month after vaccines were being distributed to other Oregon counties, Douglas County continued to neglect its duty to coordinate vaccinations for medical personnel and first responders.

4. Vaccine destined for Douglas County was shipped to other Oregon counties because Douglas County leadership made zero preparations to administer the vaccine doses.

5. It is likely more Douglas County residents will die because of Douglas County’s lack of leadership and failure to do what most other counties in Oregon in December – facilitate vaccinations.

CitizenJoe

I just got off the phone with the VA.

Would I like to come in Monday for my Fauci Ouchie*?

Would I? Would I?

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Thank you, VA Roseburg.

*not the word she used.

NJ

Good on you! And Fauci Ouchie works fine, thanks for censoring that. Yeah, I can use my imagination.

Mike

[thumbup]

Wretched722

There are plenty of vaccines to be had - just call your doctor. I've been called about getting one, and know of lots of people who have already had two....what's the problem?

CitizenJoe

Rise: What's the problem? The problem is that there have not been sufficient vaccine doses. This problem is being resolved, but it is by no means resolved--particularly for lower-priority groups.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.