What's behind the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Lane County Public Health has recieved a mere 1,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for a population of 382,000.

Posted: Jan 7, 2021 6:44 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- Lane County Public Health has received a mere 1,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for a population of 382,000. 

Senior Public Health Officer Dr. Patrick Luedtke said some of the vaccines have been distributed to other places like pharmacies and hospitals without going through Lane County Public Health first. Officials are blaming this disconnect along with the lack of communication from the federal government for the snail pace of shots. 

Luedtke said public health was originally under the impression that they would be the ones distributing the vaccine. 

So, when they found out from the government that they were contracting directly with pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, they needed to readjust. 

"The federal government made the decision. I'm not going to fault it, but it's not our decision to make. That they are going to have a direct contract with the pharmacies, OK. That they are going to vaccinate long-term care facilities. Public health never got those vaccines, never touched them, never had anything to do with them. And they made the decision to work with hospitals... so we didn't get our first doses in public health until a week ago," Luedtke said. 

To make matters worse, Luedtke said the county received far fewer doses than originally thought. He said the county gets a list every week outlining how many doses the county will get. 

According to the Oregon Health Authority's website, only three people are fully vaccinated in Lane County. 

As a public health authority, he said people are looking to them to be the ones responsible for making sure everyone gets vaccinated and that it’s fair and equitable. However, he said it’s frustrating given they don't have the power to do that since some of the vaccines have gone through the big pharmacy chains and hospitals.

Luedtke said Lane County does not have the vaccines that we need.

"The biggest challenges have been initially with the federal government knowing how this was going to happen and then once we started to understand better, which was probably late November or early December how this was going to roll out, then we had ongoing communication needs with the state. I just need to understand what vaccine I'm going to get and how we are going to utilize it quickly and not leave it sitting in the freezer," Luedtke said. 

He said everyone needs to plan ahead and figure out how they're going to get the vaccine now so when the time comes they are prepared. 

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