As of Monday morning, Oregonians ages 80 and older are now eligible for vaccines against COVID-19, making older residents the newest group to gain access to protection against the coronavirus.
State officials acknowledged last week that the sign-up process for seniors could bring chaos, and that was true early Monday.
The Oregon Health Authority did not make clear when the online system would begin allowing appointment scheduling, prompting frustration among some who stayed up late or woke up early. Some state officials were under the impression scheduling wouldn’t go live until noon. But the site began booking appointments at about 9 a.m. Monday, with the first availability for shots Wednesday at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
As older Oregonians begin to make their way to vaccinations sites around the state, here are five important things to know about getting that much-awaited protection against COVID-19.
1. Only seniors 80 and older will be eligible, for now.
Monday marks the first of four phases to vaccinate seniors in Oregon this winter. People ages 75 and older will be eligible in the next phase starting Feb. 15, followed by people 70 and older on Feb. 22, and people 65 and older on March 1.
State officials are asking for patience and ask that only people who are eligible seek appointments in the coming days. The state announced Friday that it would debut a new tool on its covidvaccine.oregon.gov website this week that allows users to sign up to get email alerts or text notifications about vaccine events in their area.
2. Make an appointment online.
Eligible seniors can make an appointment online by going to covidvaccine.oregon.gov. In the center of the page there’s a link that says, “Vaccine Eligibility & FAQ Tool” with a button that says, “Let’s Get Started.” That option prompts a chat service that can help determine if you’re eligible and redirect to an appointment page if so.
The first appointments for seniors should become available online at 9 a.m. Monday, according to Washington County Health and Human Services.
It appears the online system may be the preferred, if not only, means of signing up.
“People who don’t have internet access or a smartphone, may get a family member, friend or neighbor, or reach out to a community or faith group they are part of to register for them,” Multnomah County officials wrote.
If you need assistance by phone, call 2-1-1. Seniors can also send an email to [email protected], or text the message ORCOVID to the number 898211 to begin a conversation about scheduling an appointment.
3. Don’t expect to get an appointment right away.
Luck may play a role in how quickly you’re able to get an appointment. Some may be able to book one right away, while many others will have to wait several weeks to make an appointment, let alone get vaccinated. Factors will include where you live, how many others around you are eligible at the same time, and how quickly you navigate the online system.
Public health officials have warned that this week could bring “chaos,” as the state still suffers from inadequate vaccine supply to meet the increased demand.
4. Vaccination locations will vary by county, many will take place at mass clinic sites.
Oregon’s most populous counties have set up mass clinics to dole out the vaccines. Two such clinics at the Oregon Convention Center and Portland International Airport will serve many in the Portland metropolitan area, while the Oregon State Fairgrounds will serve those in the Salem area.
Local pharmacies will eventually be able to offer vaccinations in some Oregon counties, including this coming week. Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said Friday that the state will receive 13,000 doses this week bound for 133 different pharmacies. Further details have not yet been announced.
5. The vaccines are safe and effective, though mild side effects are common.
Trials have shown that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are extremely effective, preventing COVID-19 illness in more than 94% of non-infected people after receiving two doses.
The vaccines are also extremely safe for the vast majority of people who receive them. Side effects are normal after receiving the vaccine, including pain and swelling at the site of the site of the injection, with fever, chills, fatigue and headaches all possible as well. Studies have shown that most people will only have mild or moderate cases, and that severe side effects are rare.
To reduce pain in your arm, apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth at the site of the injection, or exercise your arm, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. It’s OK to take over-the-counter pain medications to relieve other symptoms, but DO NOT take it before the injection (unless advised by your doctor), as the medication could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, the AARP warned Friday.