Vaccines available

Just about half of Coos County residents over 16 have received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to state data.

The benchmark comes as the county reports some of the lowest case rates it has experienced since positive tests first started appearing last year.

But the rate of vaccinations, which has been slowing in recent weeks, won’t yet qualify the county for reduced restrictions under a new plan announced by Gov. Kate Brown Tuesday. Under that plan, any county with 65% of its 16-plus population would be eligible to move to the lower-risk category of virus restrictions starting May 21.

Coos County likely won’t hit that target by then. The latest data show the county will remain in the moderate-risk category of restrictions for at least another week.

The county reported 68 new cases per 100,000 in population over the last two weeks and a test positivity rate of 2.6%, according to Oregon Health Authority data released Tuesday.

Coos Health & Wellness Deputy Director Dr. Eric Gleason said additional vaccinations will be the key to continuing the community’s low case rates.

“We’re a handful of cases away from the possibility of dipping into low, which seems somewhat mind-boggling to those of us that have been fighting this for so long, and that is a direct correlation to people getting out and getting vaccinated,” Gleason said Tuesday. “So we can hope that the community puts two and two together and realizes that this is a good thing for us to move forward and stay out of those higher levels.”

Gleason said the county has held a few events for vaccinating 16- and 17-year-olds, who can only receive the limited Pfizer vaccine. Last week’s event saw about 100 people, many of them in that age range, Gleason said.

“We would’ve hoped to have had more, obviously — we want to get as many as humanly possible, but we weren’t upset with the number,” Gleason said.

As of Wednesday, the county hadn’t begun vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 15. The Pfizer vaccine had been approved for emergency use by one federal regulatory body, but not a western states review committee.

Once the vaccine is approved in Oregon, Gleason said the county will work with the South Coast Education Service District and area school districts to set up vaccination opportunities for interested students.

According to Gleason, vaccine distribution efforts have been moving towards a model more like flu shot distribution, with fewer mass vaccination events and more vaccines available at providers’ offices and community sites like schools or employers.

“We’re going to do everything we can to continuously push the evidence-based information that we have to the community. And I think again, there’s a direct correlation with the number of vaccinations going up in our area to the number of cases going down,” Gleason said.

Vaccine doses can be scheduled at Bay Area Hospital, Coquille Valley Hospital, Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center, Coos Health & Wellness and Broadway Pharmacy online at www.communityhealth.events/scheduler/ or by calling 541-435-7353.

Notably, those events include all three types of vaccines, including the Pfizer version open to 16- and 17-year-olds and a one-shot Johnson & Johnson event in Lakeside.

The vaccine is available at a number of other locations across the county, including Rite Aid, Walmart, Safeway, Fred Meyer and more.

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