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The COVID Vaccine is Here

“This is the moment we have all been waiting for.”

As the first doses of the COVID vaccine were administered at three Oregon hospitals, Governor Kate Brown spoke of hope. She also expressed gratitude to the selfless dedication of staff. “Our health care workers have been our first line of defense against COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “These heroes have poured everything they have into this fight.”

Oregon received an initial shipment of 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Staff across a wide range of hospital functions with patient contact, from nursing to janitorial services, are first in line to be vaccinated. With two doses required for protection from the virus, around 100,000 Oregonians will be vaccinated by the end of December.

The hospitals in the first group were Legacy Emanuel, OHSU, and St. Alphonsus Ontario Medical Center.

Dina Ellwanger, President and Chief Nursing Officer at St. Alphonsus Ontario, was among the first to receive the vaccine at an eastern Oregon hospital. She said the staffing challenges all hospitals are now facing are especially difficult in rural Oregon. Ellwanger said as case numbers grow there’s a chance she will have to cover a nursing shift soon, and the vaccination will enable her to do that.

Hospital leaders say it is remarkable that effective vaccines have been created already, faster than anyone thought possible.

“It is really amazing that we are 11 months into this pandemic, and we have a vaccine,” said Becky Hultberg, OAHHS President and CEO. She praised all the scientists involved, as well as all of those working on the equitable distribution of this life-saving tool.

Hultberg said she hopes the vaccine does not lead to complacency as we move into the peak of the holiday season. But now, Hultberg said there is reason to be hopeful, a light at the end of the tunnel leading to the gradual end of the pandemic. “We will get there, and we want to get there with as many lives saved as possible,” she said.  

As for when enough vaccine will be delivered to start protecting the rest of the population, state officials say they don’t know. “We have received no further instructions from the federal government,” said OHA Director Pat Allen. He did say he was hopeful that the Moderna vaccine would arrive in Oregon soon.

The governor said the first vaccines are a turning point. “Starting this week, and each week following, as vaccines become more widely available, we will begin gaining ground in our fight against this disease,” said Governor Brown, who continued to express her thanks to frontline health care staff.

“Thank you for everything you have done to help your fellow Oregonians these last 10 months.”