Ore. won't fight ruling, will start vaccinating 11,000 inmates

"The court's decision is clear, and the state has decided not to appeal," a spokesman for the governor's office said

By Aimee Green

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown’s office said Wednesday that Oregon will soon begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to as many as 11,000 inmates in the state’s 14 prisons — one day after a federal judge ordered it so.

“The court’s decision is clear, and the state has decided not to appeal,” said Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor’s office, in an email Wednesday.

Boyle didn’t offer a date when vaccinations will commence. But on Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Stacie Beckerman ruled that innoculations must begin immediately.

Some Oregonians have worried this will slow the administration of shots to Oregon’s oldest residents and daycare, preschool and K-12 employees as part of Phase 1b because of the already overburdened rollout in Oregon. But the governor’s office said it should not.

“We do not anticipate that these adjustments will alter our timelines for beginning Phase 1b vaccinations, including vaccines for educators or seniors—however that is dependent on the weekly vaccine supplies we receive from the federal government,” Boyle said.

In all, the state estimates there are 152,000 educators currently eligible for inoculations. From Feb. 8 to the first week of March, up to 767,000 seniors will become eligible, although state officials say the true number is smaller because a small portion have already been vaccinated because they qualified for reasons including they work in the health care industry or live in long-term care facilities.

In comparison, there are about 12,600 inmates in custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections. Approximately 1,600 of them have already been vaccinated. Most of them are over age 60 or are medically vulnerable and were inoculated because of a miscommunication, Beckerman wrote in her ruling.

Beckerman called for all inmates to be offered the vaccines after lawyers for several inmates argued the state’s prisons were disregarding virus safety protocols and inmates were falling ill and dying at disproportionate rates.

Educators began vaccinations Jan. 25, even though some health care workers, long-term care facility residents and others in the first wave of recipients, Phase 1a, still haven’t received first doses. Possibly 200,000 or more are waiting for second doses.

Seniors 80 years and older will become eligible Feb. 8 and the state will subsequently extend eligibility to younger seniors week by week. By the beginning of March, the state plans to allow residents age 65 and older to start receiving their shots.

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority say they can’t say at this point when Oregon’s general population of healthy adults will be eligible for vaccinations because of uncertainty about vaccine supply from the federal government.


(c)2021 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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