Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday ordered 32,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines redirected to the Portland area instead of going to other parts of the state.
The move came after news reports that health care workers in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas county were unable to be vaccinated because of a shortage of doses.
At the same time, other counties were inoculating groups further down the priority list because of excess doses on hand.
"Health care workers and Phase 1a individuals across the state have always been my top priority for vaccination," Brown said
The Portland area would receive 17,000 additional shots for health care workers and 15,000 for teachers and school staff.
"That's currently about 60% of the 53,000 first doses to be sent around the state next week, reflecting the large number of health care workers and individuals from vulnerable populations in the region," Brown said
Brown did not say where the doses would come from, but her office provided a list of 15 counties that are ahead of schedule on inoculating priority groups. Some of the doses will be from a new shipment authorized by the Centers for Disease Control.
The diversion was announced soon after news reports that Deschutes County and others were inoculating senior citizens 75 year old and up. Under the current guidelines, those groups were to received shots as late as Feb. 14.
The reason that the 15 counties are ahead of schedule was not mentioned in Brown's statement or information from OHA.
Grant County has moved down the list because of an unexpectedly high rate of eligible people declining to be vaccinated
Brown has made inoculating teachers and school staff a higher priority than vaccinations for those aged 65 and above who are most likely to get seriously ill and die from the virus.
Oregon is the only state giving priority to teachers over seniors.
Brown praised counties that had moved more swiftly than expected through the early priority groups.
"Other counties have done a fantastic job and have finished their first round of vaccines for Phase 1a populations," Brown said.
But she said the state's priority is to get all counties through the Phase 1a group before a widespread move into lower priority groups.
"We will push to give first doses to all Phase 1a individuals statewide before February 8."
The state will send second doses to the counties ahead of schedule so they can keep on a timeline for those who have already received their first shots.
In a related development, the Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday it would stop issuing specific information about COVID-19 deaths in Oregon. Since March 2020, OHA has included the the age, home county, place of death, the date of infection, the date of death and the existence of any underlying conditions.
Statistics on overall deaths will be maintained, but specific case information will no longer be made public.
OHA said the compilation of the daily death toll information was stretching staff too thin.
Critics and the media questioned the timing of the change, coming amid a debate over Brown's decision to prioritize teachers over the elderly. The daily reports showed that the deaths are overwhelmingly in the 70 and above age range.
It also comes the day before the Oregon COVID-19 vaccination committee is expected to issue ongoing prioritization for vaccines. As of Tuesday, the committee was discussing whether minority communities that have seen higher infection rates and deaths should be specifically targeted.
Other panel members have advocated to next move on to people with medical conditions that make them vulnerable to severe illness or death from COVID-19.