PORTLAND, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown, state health officials, and hospitals in the Portland area streamed live on Wednesday morning as the first few healthcare workers received doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The first shipments of the vaccine arrived in-state on Monday, and are now being distributed to medical providers around the state.
Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and Saint Alphonsus Medical Center on the Oregon-Idaho border are among those that began vaccinating staff Wednesday.
"This is the moment we have all been waiting for," said Governor Brown. "We kick off this historic vaccine campaign in Oregon with our health care workers, who have been our first line of defense against COVID-19. Today they received the first vaccinations in our state. These heroes have poured everything they have into this fight. And to all our health care workers, we thank you."
State officials have said they will receive 35,100 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine that has been approved by federal and Western state authorities. Another vaccine made by Moderna is expected to receive federal approval soon.
Oregon health officials estimate there will enough of the two vaccines to initially inoculate about 100,000 people in the state.
"With these vaccinations, we finally can begin the long, steady process of turning the tide on the pandemic," Brown continued. "But until we can achieve community levels of immunity, we all must stay the course and continue to practice the safety measures we know can make an impact and stop the spread of this virus. I am so grateful to the majority of Oregonians who are following the recommendations of our public health experts by physically distancing, wearing a mask and limiting gatherings."
The first COVID-19 vaccinations are underway at U.S. nursing homes, where the virus has killed upwards of 110,000 people, even as the nation struggles to contain a surge so alarming that California is dispensing thousands of body bags and lining up refrigerated morgue trailers.
In Washington, lawmakers are closing in on a long-stalled coronavirus relief package that would send direct payments of perhaps $600 to most Americans.
Meanwhile, the U.S. appears to be days away from adding a second vaccine to its arsenal. At the same time, a major snowstorm pushing its way into the Northeast is raising fears it could disrupt distribution of the vaccine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.