Exclusive interview with OHA director about Covid-19

MEDFORD, Ore. — A new and potentially more infectious strain of Covid-19 was identified in the U.S. on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with NBC5 News, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen says it won’t affect current vaccine distribution plans or the vaccine’s efficacy.

“While this variation makes the disease easier to transmit, it doesn’t appear to make its course any worse or affect the vaccine. But it’s really early to be able to say that definitively,” said Allen.

As for the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, Allen says it’s going according to schedule.

About 5,000 doses are being distributed per day, a number he expects to increase for the next several days.

“We expected to receive enough doses for about 100,000 people by the end of December and I do expect we’re going to receive that,” Allen said.

Currently, Allen says the state is in phase 1-A, that includes vaccinating front line health care workers, first responders, long term care facilities and other people in congregate settings.

“Health care workers and long-term care is pretty large. It’s somewhere between 300 to 400 thousand people,” he said.

Education employees will go next, that’s not just teachers, but bus drivers, nutrition workers, aids, and more.

Allen says health care equity is a top priority; that means the vaccine is distributed equally to those most affected by the disease.

Groups on that list vary.

“People who are in settings where they can’t distance in their work, so think farm workers, think people in processing or seafood processing plants, those kinds of things,” said Allen.

Also a factor, he says, is translating the message of a vaccine both literally and culturally to diverse communities.

That includes who will be the messengers or voices people need to hear from.

“Sadly, we have communities whether it’s Native Americans experiences, African Americans have experience with their family not that long ago being subject to medical experiments and not being able to find the health care establishment trustworthy,” said Allen.

With many arms to vaccinate, Allen says there will be challenges.

“We don’t know anything about how much vaccine we will continue to get from the federal government. So, I think the tough part right now is how long we think it’s going to take,” said Allen.

It’s about what we continue to do in the meantime, he says, that will make all the difference.

“Nobody wants their mom, or dad, or grandparent, to be the last person to die of a preventable disease and so we really need people to focus on keeping each other safe while we get people vaccinated,” Allen said.

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