Teachers and other school, preschool and child care workers are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
An invitation-only mass vaccination clinic for education workers is set for Saturday, and 43 health care clinics and other organizations have now signed up to deliver vaccines.
Public schools in Douglas County employ about 2,900 people, according to the Douglas Education Service District. And that doesn’t include the private school, preschool and child care workers who also just became eligible for the vaccines.
Still waiting in the wings for their shots are the county’s seniors. The first group of seniors, those 80 and older, don’t become eligible until Feb. 7.
Underscoring the urgency, the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported 18 new cases Wednesday and one new death.
A 70-year-old man diagnosed with COVID-19 on Jan. 9 died Tuesday. No additional information was released about him.
Douglas Education Service District Superintendent Michael Lasher said a survey of public school employees in the county received 1,700 responses and 850, or 50%, of them were interested in getting vaccinated.
So far, the county has only received 700 doses for Phase 1B, but Lasher said he’s hopeful the state will allocate more vaccines to the county for school workers.
“A multi-agency effort is under way to ensure Douglas County’s education and early learning staff receive vaccinations as quickly as possible,” he said. “Douglas ESD is grateful to be partnering with Aviva (Health) and other local agencies, including (Douglas Public Health Network) to support our local schools through this work.”
Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said the group of providers lined up to administer vaccines to county residents as they become eligible includes all the major clinics — Aviva Health, Evergreen Family Medicine, Umpqua Health Alliance, SouthRiver Community Health Center in Winston and Lower Umpqua Hospital in Reedsport. It also includes many smaller clinics, several emergency medical service agencies and even a dental practice. So far, it doesn’t include any pharmacies.
The Douglas Education Service District will also be able to give vaccines to education workers who can’t participate in a mass vaccination clinic.
The vaccines for education workers are distributed from the Oregon Health Authority to the Local Public Health Authority, which is the Douglas County government, and then given out to those who will administer the vaccines.
In the following weeks of February, younger seniors become available step by step according to age.
School, preschool and childcare workers are all in Group 1 of Phase 1B, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s most recent guidelines.
Seniors 80 and older are in Group 2 of Phase 1B.
Group 3, people 75 and older, become eligible Feb. 14.
Group 4, people 70 and older, become eligible Feb. 21.
Group 5, the last group of seniors aged 65 and older become eligible Feb. 28.
But that detailed schedule doesn’t guarantee vaccines will be available on those dates, Dannenhoffer said.
So far, the demand for vaccines has exceeded the supply and that means shortages on the ground and delays for some people who want the shots.
“We are working on a plan for the vaccine release for seniors, but it will not be published until we have more information on our vaccine allocation and a confirmation of the eligibility date,” Dannenhoffer said.
He said he hopes seniors will get their vaccines at their regular health care providers.
“We would really like to avoid mass vaccination events for seniors. Gathering together that many seniors, and waiting in line is not an ideal or safe situation for our senior population,” Dannenhoffer said.
Since the county still doesn’t know its vaccine allocation or its arrival date, it’s asking that residents wait until its Senior Population COVID Vaccine Plan is published.
He said he urges seniors not to call doctor’s offices now with questions, since neither the county nor the clinics knows how many vaccines it will receive for seniors or when it will receive them.
“We will do our best to connect those that are eligible for the vaccine with those that have the vaccine, as soon as the vaccine becomes available,” Dannenhoffer said.
People in Phase 1A, such as healthcare workers and first responders, are still eligible to receive their vaccines, and each group has its own separate allocation of vaccines. Those in Phase 1A can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to get a shot.