A band of Lincoln County agencies and the Board of Commissioners have sent a letter to Oregon Health Authority lead Patrick Allen, urging the director to take a more equitable approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The letter comes after Gov. Kate Brown redirected 32,000 vaccines from rural Oregon to Portland. Republican state leadership and State Senator Dick Anderson rebuked the move last week, calling the redirection “insulting” and “unfair to communities.” State Republicans have said Gov. Brown is “picking winners and losers” with vaccine redirection and the prioritization of federal COVID-19 funds to Portland over rural Oregon.
“We will continue to advocate as vigorously as we can for the people of Lincoln County,” Lincoln County Commissioner Claire Hall said. “The state’s policy does not recognize that we have a large number of seniors in our communities, that this is a tourist county, and that we have many essential workers with regular contacts with locals and visitors. It is wrong for us to be punished for our success in getting shots in arms.”
“For us, being a rural and tourist community, it is critical to get our aging population and essential workers protected quickly. We had one of the largest outbreaks in the State this summer,” The letter reads. “We are constantly exposed to people who travel, many from States that don’t even have a mask policy. We are the least able to respond to these challenges as we are chronically under-staffed and under-funded.”
The Lincoln County Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (MAC) consists of the following:
Lincoln County Public Health
Lincoln County School District
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office
Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital
Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital
Pacific West Ambulance
Oregon Coast Community College
North Lincoln Fire and Rescue
Newport Fire Department
In the letter, the MAC points out exceptional collaboration that has been stymied by getting zero doses of vaccine so metro areas can “catch up.” The group feels a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, saying the all-for-one, one-for-all mindset now in place for the County and its partners is threatened by a loss of momentum due to no doses for an entire week.
The letter asks for a minimum amount of vaccines to keep momentum going:
“We can’t stress enough that local control, in collaboration with state agencies and leadership, leads to the productive progress we need to tackle the ongoing challenges our rural community is facing. We appreciate you rethinking this strategy and at least send us a minimum amount so as not to lose momentum and to keep morale up. These are challenging times for all us and we believe that our hard work and focus on protecting our community should be rewarded.”
Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority have not responded to repeated requests for comment.