The number of Baker County residents who have received their first of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine has nearly doubled over the past week.
The roster of residents who have had both inoculations also is rising.
The county had its busiest day on Friday, Jan. 8, when 140 doses were administered, including 53 at Meadowbrook Place assisted living community in Baker City.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 13, a total of 390 people had been vaccinated.
That includes 31 residents who have received both doses, and 359 who have had their first shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, according to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
“We’re working on it, and we’re making progress,” Nancy Staten, director of the Baker County Health Department, said on Monday, Jan. 10.
Although the county’s initial vaccinations starting on Dec. 18 and continuing for the next week or so were limited to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center, the arrival of the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t need to be stored at ultralow temperatures, has allowed the Health Department, which can keep the Moderna vaccine on site, to start inoculations as well, Staten said.
She said the Health Department and Saint Alphonsus are partnering to inoculate people who belong to one of the four groups listed in phase 1a of the OHA’s vaccination priority plan.
Those groups are (categories within each group are not listed in order of priority for vaccination).
• Group 1: hospitals, urgent care, skilled nursing and memory care facility health care professionals and residents, tribal health programs, EMS providers and other first responders
• Group 2: other long-term care facility residents and congregate care sites including health care professionals and residents, hospice programs, mobile crisis care and related services, secure transport, individuals working in a correctional setting
• Group 3: outpatient settings serving specific high-risk groups, in-home care, day treatment services, non-emergency medical transport
• Group 4: health care professionals in outpatient, public health and early learning centers, death care workers, including mortuaries
Staten didn’t have an estimate for how many Baker County residents are in one of the phase 1a groups, and according to Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the OHA, the state agency doesn’t have a county breakdown either.
Statewide, officials estimate there are about 500,000 people in the phase 1a groups.
Staten said Health Department staff has been trying to get in touch with residents who are eligible for a vaccination under phase 1a. She said some people have also called the Department to see if they’re eligible.
Residents and staff at Meadowbrook Place were offered vaccinations on Jan. 8.
A total of 43 residents — 94% of residents — received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, said Suzanne Miller, executive director at Meadowbrook Place.
Ten employees were also vaccinated, Miller said.
She said she has tried to educate employees about the process by which the vaccine was tested and approved, but she has had to overcome resistance in some cases driven by social media claims of unproven concerns such as the vaccine causing sterility in women.
“We’ve got a really good video I’ve been showing” that dispels false claims about the vaccine, Miller said.
That video was provided by the Consonus Pharmacy, which also brought the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Portland and administered the shots at Meadowbrook.
Miller said a clinic to give the second inoculation is set for Jan. 29, with another clinic planned during February.
She said residents and staff had “very minimal” side effects from the vaccine, mainly temporary soreness at the injection site.
Nicole Howerton, administrator at Memory Lane Homes in Baker City, said the Health Department was scheduled to vaccinate residents and staff at that care facility today, Jan. 14.
Howerton said on Tuesday that she expects 11 of the 12 residents will take the vaccine, along with two employees.
The only employee who declined to be vaccinated has had reactions to other vaccines, Howerton said.
She said several employees, herself included, do not plan to be inoculated today.
Howerton said two employees who have declined the vaccination are pregnant and concerned about possible effects, although medical experts say pregnant women who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine should take it.
Howerton said she’s “hesitant” about being vaccinated in part because it’s so new.
She said she will consider being vaccinated in the future, after more data are available about the vaccines.
Despite her personal reluctance, Howerton said she’s pleased that the vaccine is available for residents and staff at Memory Lane Homes.
“I’m glad it finally made it here,” she said. “I think it’s going to make everyone feel more comfortable.”
Although today’s vaccinations won’t change the COVID-19 precautions that have been in place for months at Memory Lane Homes, including three temperature checks per day for residents, distancing, mask wearing and frequent sanitation of surfaces, Howerton said she hopes that as more people are vaccinated, the rate of new virus cases will decline and restrictions will ease.
She’s especially eager to see residents have visits with their families.
Residents have been lonely during the months of the pandemic, Howerton said.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “We need to get these guys back with their families.”
No vaccinations have been administered at Settler’s Park Assisted Living in Baker City.