Oregon Gov. Kate Brown already has been under scrutiny for where she placed seniors in the vaccination timeline.
But her latest move last week ratcheted up the temperature on the hot seat.
Brown on Thursday, Jan. 28, announced that a large portion of the state’s vaccine supply would be redirected to the Portland area. The reason, she said, was that Portland-area individuals who qualified for a vaccine in Phase 1A had not yet received it, while other areas of the state — including Wallowa County — were already moving into and past vaccinating educators and now into inoculating seniors.
The governor already has received criticism for putting educators ahead of the oldest segment of the population, which has been by far the group hardest hit by COVID-19. The numbers have been published here several times, but bear repeating. Those 80 years old and above account for more than half of the reported COVID-19 deaths in Oregon, and those 60 and older make up about 91% of fatalities. This is in spite of those groups counting for only about 17% of all cases in the state.
Logic would seem to dictate that those who are the most susceptible to die from the virus should be focused on, and seniors are clearly the hardest it. Those 80 and above in Oregon have a mortality rate of about 18.8% (or a survival rate of 81.2%), while those 0-79 have a mortality rate of just 0.68% (a survival rate of 99.3%). Even the 70-79 population has a mortality rate barely one-third of the 80 and up group (6.6%, a survival rate of 93.4%). The data irrefutably shows that the oldest are the most vulnerable.
We can understand the decision to vaccinate health care workers first — they are on the front lines each day, and if more of them become ill, that increases the potential for virus spread and decreases the number of people who can take care of those who are sick. And yes, health care workers are in 1A and still need vaccinated in the metro area.
What we cannot understand is the decision — as it appears from the outside — to essentially punish those counties who have successfully worked their way through 1A and are now into vaccinating seniors. We’ve been told for months that a vaccine was the key to returning to normal, and Brown in her statement last week commended the counties that have been able to move through Phase 1A faster.
Why then, in the same breath, tell those counties that they have to wait for the rest of the state to catch up before immunizing their most vulnerable residents?
And while the Chieftain isn’t saying this is the case, it gives the appearance of favoring the more highly populated regions over the ruralites east of the Cascades. East Oregonians often claim the west side of the state doesn’t care about them, and this doesn’t help that view — even if that’s not the reason.
It does make one wonder, though — if the roles were reversed, and Eastern Oregon was behind Portland, would vaccines be pulled from the metro area to help the small regions? Or would rural places be lectured on their inability to keep up?
And, despite all the claims of following the science and data, are backs being turned on those whom data proves are the most in need of a vaccine?