The Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday that the state has enough vaccine doses to accommodate hundreds of thousands of residents who now qualify for a second COVID booster shot.
On Tuesday, federal officials approved a second booster for those at least 50 years old or residents between 12 and 49 who are immunocompromised. Federal approval was followed by a similar thumbs up from a scientific review group that represents Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada.
Those who’ve received three shots of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can get a fourth shot four months after their last dose. A third shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is considered the second booster.
According to the health authority, more than 1.6 million people in Oregon are 50 and older, and nearly 900,000 have received their first booster. The health care agency estimates that 500,000 people are likely to seek a second booster dose over the next four to six months.
There are about 270,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines distributed throughout the state, the health authority said.
“I’m not worried about vaccine supply right now, even if we see a rush for second boosters following this week’s news,” Dr. Paul Cieslak, the agency’s immunization medical director said in a statement. “Existing supply is already strong, and the CDC is ready to send more doses if we need them.”
FIND A VACCINE Check the state website; visit your county
health department or call your provider
The doses are free and available statewide, including at some state-run sites.
Federal officials said the extra doses are safe and will boost protection for those who need it most.
“This is especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease from COVID as they are the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said in a statement.
Underlying medical conditions include cancer; chronic kidney, lung or liver disease; heart problems; HIV infection; diabetes; dementia or having disabilities.
In Oregon, nearly 17% of those aged 65 and older who contracted COVID required hospitalization, compared with 2% of those younger. Nearly 7% of those seniors have died, compared with 0.3% of those younger.
People who have already received a booster have better protection than someone who has only completed the initial round, however scientists have found that immune protection starts to decrease within months.
The health authority did not respond to a question about whether state health officials are recommending the additional dose.
They’ve repeatedly said it’s most important that everyone completes the first round, two doses of Pfizer and Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. They’ve also emphasized that communities of color get vaccinated. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have the highest booster rates in the state: 57%. That compares with 27% for Hispanics, 34% for Black Oregonians and 33% for Native Americans. Nearly 49% of whites have received a booster, and 52% of Asians have as well.
State data show that 83% of adults in Oregon, 2.8 million people, have received one vaccine dose; 76% or 2.6 million have received two and nearly 45% or 1.5 million have gotten the first booster. Booster vaccination rates range from 52% of adults in Multnomah, Washington and Hood River counties to 20% in Malheur County.
Approval of the extra shot coincides with the rise of a new coronavirus variant, BA.2, that’s even more infectious than omicron. Scientists say it does not appear to cause more severe illness, however. The variant has swept across Europe and is now marching across the U.S.
Oregon labs first detected the variant the week of Feb. 27, according to health authority data. Omicron still remains the dominant strain in the state, however.
A forecast by Peter Graven of Oregon Health & Science University predicts that the variant will cause a rise in cases and deaths in Oregon starting next week. The forecast predicts this coming surge will peak around the third week in April and then decline by the beginning of June. Graven’s analysis indicates that this new wave will be relatively small, comparable with a surge about the same time last year in the runup to the delta spike in the summer.
To date, more than 703,000 people in Oregon have become infected with COVID and at least 7,115 have died. State hospitals are no longer jammed with COVID patients. State data show that there are 114 adult intensive care beds available – 17% – along with 401 in adult non-intensive care units, 9%. Though cases have fallen dramatically in recent weeks, the health authority continues to announce dozens of deaths a day.
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